What was a two-team race for the county baseball championship last week, turned suddenly into a four-team contest Monday.
That's when the Glenelg Gladiators scored a 2-1, extra-inning victory over Atholton, which had entered the game at 9-1.
The Gladiator win left Glenelg and Atholton tied for first place with 9-2 records and three league games apiece left to play.
Close behind are 7-3 Mount Hebron and 6-3 Centennial. Hebron, a team with phenomenal speed, won a 6-4 victory over Wilde Lake Monday and could tie for first by winning its final four games, including one against Glenelg today and another with Atholton Monday. Centennial, which upset Glenelg Friday and pounded out five homers in a 22-9 victory over Hammond Monday, also is in the running.
Atholton's loss to Glenelg was a series of frustrations for the Raiders, who put 15 runners on base but scored just once. The win was especially satisfying for Glenelg, which had lost to the Raiders, 10-1, earlier in the season.
Glenelg sophomore Brian Boteler, batting in the clean-up position, belted a two-out, opposite-field single off relief pitcher Brian Gick in the bottom of the ninth that gave Matt Drummond the winning run. Drummond had singled and stolen second base.
Boteler, batting .350, hit a fastball over the outside part of the plate and drove it over the right fielder's head. He was previously one-for-three off Gick, who had taken the mound to start the ninth.
"I was looking for a fastball and got one," Boteler said. "It was my most exciting hit of the year."
The Gladiators had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a bloop single to right field by Boteler, a sacrifice bunt by Jeff Lewis and a two-out, hard ground-ball single to center field by David Gunter.
Atholton starting pitcher Bryan Egolf retired the next 15 Glenelg batters, and left the mound after a superb two-hit, one-walk effort over seven innings.
Atholton played errorless defense, and scored its only run in the third inning on three hits and a walk. Brian Hannah singled, but was thrown out trying to steal -- the first of two base runners cut down at second by Glenelg catcher Greg Corrick.
Brian Van Deusen singled on the next pitch, and Egolf doubled Van Deusen home with a long drive to right-center. Van Deusen barely beat the relay with a head-first slide into the plate.
Billy Mills walked, but Gick fanned on a high fastball from Glenelg starter Kevin Roland to end the inning.
"I didn't really have my stuff today," Roland said. "But they helped me out by swinging at a lot of high fastballs."
Roland pitched seven innings, allowing six hits, four walks and surviving two Glenelg errors -- one of them his own. He allowed at least two base runners in four of the seven innings and #F pitched out of a mammoth jam in the second inning.
Atholton's Mills led off with a single, and Gick followed with a walk. A wild pitch put runners on third and second with no outs.
But Roland fanned Mark Trecannelli on a high fastball. The next batter, Brian Smith, grounded to Boteler at third base. Boteler fielded a bad hop with his bare hand and threw out Mills at the plate. Roland then retired Kevin Nickey on a groundout to shortstop.
Atholton got its lead-off batter on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings without scoring. In the ninth, the Raiders had runners at second and first with one out but failed to score.
With two outs in the ninth inning and an Atholton runner at third base, relief pitcher Lewis uncorked a wild pitch that bounced hard off the backstop right into Lewis' glove as he charged toward home to cover the plate. The Atholton runner retreated to third base, and Lewis retired the batter
on a grounder to end the inning.
Lewis gained his fifth win against one loss.
"We're not hitting, but our pitching's been excellent," Glenelg coach Terry Coleman said.
The last four Gladiators games have ended in a 2-1 score, and Glenelg has won three of them.
"We're making the defensive plays when we have to," Coleman said. "This was a big win, not only toward the county race, but toward our goal of making the playoffs."
Glenelg has won six county titles since 1977, but none since 1987. The Gladiators were regional champs in 1989. Atholton was county champ in 1990.