Tempered euphoria aptly described Atholton's emotions after the Raiders' 6-4 season-opening baseball victory over Loyola on Friday.
The Raiders were sky-high about beating a tough Maryland Scholastic Association opponent. But they realized that they won't win too often iftheir pitching continues to allow eight walks per game.
Atholton, a senior-dominated team, is the preseason favorite to win the county championship. The victory Friday proved it has what it takes to be a champion.
Loyola, the host team, took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on an error, a bunt single, a walk andtwo wild pitches by Atholton starter Bryan Egolf. It was a demoralizing way for Atholton to fall behind.
Egolf, a lanky left-hander who throws hard, had trouble finding the plate during his 3 1/3-inning stint. He walked six during that time, but allowed only one hit.
"Last year, early in the season, we wouldn't have come back," Egolf said.
The Raiders didn't allow negative thinking to take control, however.
In the top of the fourth inning they bounced back for four runs on three hits, including a single by Billy Mills, an RBI-double by Egolf and a two-run double by Brian Smith. The fourth run scored on an error.
Egolf's hit was a smoking line drive to right field that bounced off a wall. On most fields it would have rolled for a homerun.
Smith also drove his double sharply, finding the left-centerfield gap.
"He (Smith) has come through with a lot of big hits for us," Egolf said. "It felt good to get my hit after the way I pitched -- all those walks and two wild pitches."
Loyola, showing the resiliency that marks good teams, scored twice in the bottom of the fourth, tying the game 4-4. The Dons loaded the bases on two walks and an infield single off the glove of leaping shortstop Brian Gick.
Egolf allowed the walks. Relief pitcher Richard Blankenship gave up thesingle.
Blankenship should have escaped unscored upon, but a routine grounder to Gick turned into a two-run error. Gick's throw to first was slightly high and first baseman Brian Hannah allowed it to bounce off his glove.
Blankenship, a side-arming, junior right-hander, recorded the third out on a fly to left field. He allowed no hits and no runs over the last two innings. The teams played only six innings instead of seven due to darkness
"He (Blankenship) threw strikes for us today, and it was an important confidence-building outing for him early in the season," Atholton coach Kevin Kelly said.
Gick redeemed himself for his shaky defensive play at shortstop by scoringthe winning run in the fifth inning. He reached first base on an error, stole second, went to third on a fly ball and scored on a ground ball. He slid under the tag in a close play at the plate.
Atholtonadded an insurance run in the sixth on a walk, sacrifice bunt, single and wild pitch.
Loyola coach Dave McCann threw four pitchers andjuggled his lineup against Atholton as he attempted to find his beststarting team before the MSA A Conference season begins next week.
The Dons are 2-2, but McCann said he expects his team to finish among the top four teams in its division.
Loyola pitchers allowed sixwalks and four hits and Loyola made two errors.