FREDERICK -- Northeast relied on its big bats to win games all season long. It was no different yesterday, as the Eagles clobbered Hammond, 15-3, to win the state Class 2A baseball championship here at McCurdy Field.
The Eagles rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to become the first team in state history to complete a 24-game season undefeated.
Northeast, ranked No. 8 nationally by Collegiate Baseball magazine and No. 17 by USA Today, batted around in both the second and fourth innings when it scored six and seven runs, respectively.
In their four playoff games, the Eagles scored 63 runs -- an average of more than 15 a game.
They entered yesterday's game sporting six players with batting averages over .400 for the season.
"I've had some great teams," said Northeast coach Harry Lentz. "But at 24-0, it's hard to say I've had any one better than this. [Winning by routs] is the norm for us. This is a great ballclub, and maybe the best in state history."
Yesterday, designated hitter Chad O'Brien led the way with a single, double, triple, five RBI and two runs scored. He had a chance to hit for the cycle, but grounded to short in his final at-bat.
"I was thinking cycle, but I got a little over-anxious," said O'Brien, who before his ground out had gone 8-for-10 with nine RBI in his three playoff games. "[Hammond starter Joe Nestor] was throwing me hanging curves every time. I was really just waiting for that pitch, since I knew I could drive it."
His double over the head of left fielder Mike Alvarez in the second scored Russell Curry (2-for-4, two runs scored) to cut the Eagles' deficit to 2-1. After his team scored five more in the inning -- three on homer by Craig Everett to left -- his two-run triple in the third put Northeast up, 8-2. He added a two-run single in the fourth.
After a one-two-three inning to start the game, Nestor threw 37 pitches in facing nine batters in the second. In his three innings, the Hammond pitcher allowed 13 runs on seven hits and walked seven.
"We ran into a buzz saw today," said Hammond coach Bob Maxey, whose team finished 19-5, including a 15-4 loss to Northeast on April 2. "What else can you say, they just hit the ball. We gave them a good game for two innings."
Meanwhile, Northeast starter Charlie Buckheit (11-0), though admittedly not at the top of his game, pitched well enough to stay in control. He gave up five hits, four of them singles, and one earned run in his 83-pitch, complete-game effort.
"Every time I pitch we get down by two, three or four," he said. "Then we score some runs and I get my confidence back. Today was no different."
Hammond jumped in front early, scoring single runs in the first two innings. With two out in the first, Jeff Lavis singled home Jeff Cyran from second. Then in the second, Nestor hit an opposite-field home run to left, making it 2-0.
But that lead was short-lived.
Curry tripled to lead off the second and, after Rich Spiegel walked, came home on O'Brien's double. K.C. Murphy then hit a double to the gap power alley in left that scored Spiegel and O'Brien, giving Northeast a 3-2 lead.
After Jamie Barnett walked, Everett hit a long home run to left to extend the Eagles' lead to 6-2.
Northeast scored two more in the third and sent 11 to the plate in scoring seven in the fourth to make the score 15-2.
This was the Eagles' first appearance in the state championship game since 1980, when they lost to Woodward of Montgomery County in extra innings.
Earlier this season, Northeast defeated Class 4A champion Arundel, 14-4.
Said Maxey: "They have quality pitching, speed and a lot of power. They're definitely the best team in the tournament and maybe the best in state history."