Chuck Harmon is the last guy Cecil Johnies' pitchers want to see coming to the plate with the game on the line.
A catcher for Crouse Construction in the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League, Harmon has spoiled or nearly spoiled Johnies' victory plans more than once.
Last year, playing for the Parkville Colts, Harmon had six RBI, including a grand slam, as the Colts nearly knocked the Johnies out ofthe divisional playoffs. The Colts dropped that final game in the best-of-five series, 11-10, and the Johnies went on to win the league championship.
This year, Harmon's Crouse Construction team is aiming to dethrone the Johnies. Thursday night at Thomas Run Park, Harmon's bat again blasted the Johnies' pitching -- this time with better results.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Harmon launched a three-run rocket over the center-field fence to give Crouse Construction a 10-8 victory.
"This was the most dramatic win I've seen all year," said Crouse manager Johnny Hughes.
Crouse went into the bottom of the seventh inning trailing, 8-6. Johnies starter Daryl Hendricks gave up back-to-back doubles down the left-field line to Dave Hughes and Tom Schmidt, cutting the lead to 8-7.
Johnies manager Ed Lynchpulled Hendricks for left-handed reliever Ray Lloyd, who got Tom Mistysyn on a fly ball to center that left Schmidt at second.
Lynch then yanked Lloyd for right-hander Jimmy Schmele, who gave up a singleto Dan Oldendick followed by the homer to Harmon.
"To beat them two out of four is a big thing for us," said Harmon, who spent time a few years ago in the Minnesota Twins' organization. "When you face good pitching like that and you know they're strong from one to nine through their lineup, it's tough. Everybody said they would run away with (the division title), but we hung in."
Wednesday night, Crouse had the hot bats right from the first inning. It batted around, with Mistysyn smacking a three-run homer and Jeff Randall driving in a couple more runs on a single.
Oldendick provided the other run with asolo homer in the third.
But it wasn't enough, as the Johnies came back to rock Crouse pitching for a 12-6 win.
Crouse starting pitcher Jay Witisak worked 4 1/3 innings, yielding seven runs, includinga three-run homer to Lloyd. Lenny Skrivanek and Charlie Pritchett, asenior at Mervo High in Baltimore City, finished up.
Thursday's win gives Crouse Construction at least a split in the season-ending four-game series with the Johnies, based in North East. Skrivanek pitched a one-hit shutout for a 2-0 Crouse win Tuesday.
The most controversial game of the series between these two archrivals was Monday night. At Johnies' North East field, the home team appeared to win a 10-9 game called because of darkness. However, Hughes lodged a protest because Crouse had scored one run to tie in the top of the seventh and had a runner on base when the game was called. Hughes said the gameshould have been completed.
Chuck Scott, Northern Division commissioner, had not ruled on the protest as of press time.
Even if Hughes' protest is denied, Crouse would finish no lower than second in the National Division. As of Friday, Crouse was in first place, with a38-5 record, while the Johnies were in second, at 37-5.
Crouse has one game to complete this weekend, a suspension of a July 7 game atParkville Colts. In the top of the fourth, Crouse led, 4-1. The Johnies will pick up two forfeit wins this weekend from the disbanded Rebel Warriors.
If Hughes' protest is upheld and Crouse wins the continuation, it would win the division. If not, the teams remain tied. Aone-game playoff would be played Monday night with the home-field advantage determined by a coin flip.
Once a Northern Division regular-season champ is determined, the divisional playoffs will begin between the top four squads.
Bel Air Athletic Club (27-15) and Aberdeen (26-16) are jostling for third.
In the opening round of the best-of-three divisional series, the division champ would play the No. 4 team. No. 2 would host No. 3.
The two winners would then meet in another best-of-three series to begin no later than Aug. 3.
The Northern Division champ will play the Southern Division champ for the league title in a best-of-five series to begin no later than Aug. 10.