After his complete-game, 7-3 victory over visiting Glen Burnie Friday, Severna Park hurler Rob McCandless felt comfortable enough to reveal one of his best-kept secrets.
"I'm horrible in the first inning," said McCandless (3-0), from behind his wire-framed glasses. "Today's the first time I walked a guy, and I paid for it. I got ahead of him and I still walked him."
McCandless walked the first batter of the game, Glen Burnie freshman Rolando Newton, who stole second. He scored from there to give the visitors a 1-0 lead when shortstop Alan Baker cleanly fielded Dave Lanham's grounder but was low on the throw to first base.
It was 2-0, Glen Burnie, after the top of the second. Shannon Cavey's triple -- the first of five Gophers hits -- dropped inside the first-base line just beyond the reach of diving right fielder Sean Miller. Then Mike Mahaney nailed a run-scoring single.
But McCandless, a returning first-team All-County player, got a 4-2 lead after two-run homers from sophomore designated hitter Brad Tippin (nine RBI), who entered the game batting .375, and sophomore left fielder Mike Fleming in the second inning.
Then McCandless -- who entered batting a team-leading .642, well above the county-record .586 he established a year ago -- added a third-inning two-run homer of his own, to make it 6-2.
And after Cavey's fourth-inning solo home run cut the deficit to 6-3,McCandless (seven strikeouts) retired 12 of the last 14 batters he faced. He struck out three looking and three swinging.
"He was hitting all the spots and letting me frame the plate 1 or 2 inches off the corners," said junior catcher John Milisitz, a returning second-team All-County player who tripled and doubled in three at-bats.
"Robhad his fastball, his curve and his change-up working real well. It was only those two bad pitches that cost him."
Cavey (3-for-3), who lacked only a double to complete the cycle, said, "We were definitely up for the game. We've faced harder pitchers than him, but we justcouldn't get the hits at the right time."
The Gophers (3-4 overall, 1-1 in the Friendship Division) had shut out previously unbeaten Old Mill, 9-0, on Wednesday.
But McCandless had the stuff, and the Falcons had the bats to beat them.
"This is the first time I pitched well all year," said McCandless, who entered with a 1.85 ERA. His run-scoring single in the fifth raised his RBI total to a team-leading 11.
The 6-0 Falcons (2-0 division) committed two errors after having played through 13 errorless innings in their two previous victories over Meade, 12-8, and defending Maryland Scholastic Association champion Calvert Hall. Another win came over defending Class 4A champion Arundel, 6-3, so Coach Jim Pitt knew the Gophers would be gunning for them.
Glen Burnie freshman Jay Sponaugle took just 10 pitches to retire the Falcons' first three batters, including third-team All-County second baseman John Novack (ground out) and second-team centerfielder Steve Neuberger (pop out). Neuberger, who went 2-for-3, entered the day batting .611 with five RBI and a home run.
But after just 2 1/3 innings, seven hits, three homers and 43 pitches, the Falcons laid waste to Sponaugle, who was replaced by 250-pound senior Justin Slade. Slade gave up three hits and struck out three.