As Severna Park baseball coach Jim Pitt walked toward his team's bench after yesterday's 7-5 win at Old Mill, he lifted his cap and asked, "See how the hair's thinning out and graying on top?"
The Falcons' habit of falling behind early may be subtracting years from Pitt'slife, but it's also adding victories to their record. That's 12 and counting.
Severna Park, ranked No. 1 in the metro area, scored four runs inthe fifth inning to wipe out a 5-2 deficit and remain undefeated. The Falcons (3-0 in the Friendship Division) have trailed in most of their games this season, but "we have that feeling inside like we know we're going to pull it out," said senior J.J. Novak.
"Nobody gets down on themselves."
The Falcons trailed, 5-2, after Old Mill scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The biggest blows were a two-run double by pitcher Lee Haney and a three-run inside-the-park homer by second baseman Brian Jones.
"We tend to fall asleep alittle bit," Novak said, "but (Old Mill) woke us up, and we decided to get back in the saddle and play some ball."
And that's when thePatriots ran into trouble.
Novak (3-for-4) led off the fifth witha single to center. One out later, Steve Neuberger (3-for-3) poked asingle to left. Old Mill catcher Mike Mahoney attempted to pick off Neuberger, but his throw sailed past first baseman Ryan Dempsey, and Novak scored easily.
After a walk to pitcher Rob McCandless put runners on first and second, John Milisitz hit a sharp grounder that went through Jones' legs, allowing Neuberger to score and reducing Old Mill's lead to 5-4.
Brad Tippin followed with an RBI single down the left-field line, and Severna Park went ahead for good on a bloop single to left by Roy Dietrich.
The Falcons added an insurance run in the sixth off Haney (3-1) on a Novak double and an Alan Baker single to left, and McCandless (6-0) escaped jams in the last two inningsto preserve the win.
"We feel like, as long as we can keep it within three or four runs, we have a good shot at coming back," Novak said.
Pitt said, "It's almost like they get knocked down, dust themselves off and are ready to play again. That's what I like about this ballclub. They're fearless."
McCandless allowed the winning run tocome to the plate after walking two batters in the seventh. But the senior right-hander retired Ryan Scott on a fly ball to center and struck out Mike Longazel looking to end the game.
"He has great baseball sense and instinct -- maybe the most of any kid we've coached here," Pitt said of McCandless, who gave up four hits, walked three andstruck out eight. He didn't allow a hit after the fourth inning.
"He reached back real well on that last pitch (to Longazel). It was one of the better fastballs he threw the whole ballgame," Pitt said.
The Falcons scored twice in the opening inning. Baker reached firstwith one out after being hit by a Haney fastball. After a wild pitchmoved him to second, Neuberger delivered an RBI single to center. Neuberger stole second and scored on a Milisitz single to right-center.
Severna Park, which had 12 hits, mounted a threat in every inning, but Haney was aided by two double plays and a pick-off.
"I told our kids coming in to treat this game like the seventh game of the World Series," Pitt said. "(Old Mill) has a good ballclub, and I told our kids, 'We're going to have to play our best ballgame to beat them.' "
The Patriots (6-5 and 0-2) will get another crack at Severna Park on May 8 in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
"We didn't execute the big plays today," said Old Mill coach Mel Montgomery. "We should have gone into the seventh inning winning, 5-2. But that's the way this game is played. One bounce of the ball or one throw of the ball and you're on the other side of the score."