Throughout most of the regular season, the Severna Park High baseball team always seemed to put together a quick offensive burst when it needed it most.
During the bottom of the sixth inning of Friday's Class 4A Region IV semifinal against fourth-seeded Broadneck (13-4), Falcon catcher John Milisitz implored his team -- which trailed 3-0 -- not to wait until the last inning to try to rally against the Bruins.
With no one out, the top-seeded Falcons (17-3) -- or at least Steve Neuberger -- responded to Milisitz. The center fielder blasted a bases-empty home run over the left center-field fence.
But Broadneck wiggled its way out of the inning, withstood one last attack by the hosts, and came up with a stunning, 5-4 upset win over a club that had been ranked as high as ninth in a USA Today national high school poll.
"Today, Broadneck was just one run better than we were," said the Falcons' 23-year veteran coach Jim Pitt. "We left too many guys on base. We were getting some hits, but we weren't getting them when we needed them. The runs have always come when we needed them most, but not today. They were just a better ballclub than we were today."
Thanks to Neuberger (3-for-3, three RBI and two runs scored) and an uncharacteristic two-out error from Bruin senior shortstop Matt Weimer, Severna Park almost pulled off another one of its patented come-from-behind wins.
"We weren't fazed at all during the whole game. We were used to coming from behind during the regular season; we knew we had a chance," said Neuberger, who finished the year with five homers and 19 stolen bases. "Even up to the last inning, we still had lots of confidence."
Byron Druzgal was hit by a Jeff Vincent pitch to start the seventh inning, then moved to second on an Alan Baker groundout. Vincent struck out J. J. Novak for the second out. Starting pitcher John Ritter hit a grounder that was sure to be the final out of the game, but the normally sure-handed Weimer allowed the ball to scoot by him, allowing Druzgal to score from second to give the Falcons their last ray of hope.
Neuberger then promptly smashed another home run, a two-run shot to bring Severna Park to within one. But Rob McCandless couldn't follow suit, flying out to center field minutes before a downpour hit.
"They were just a little better than we were today. They hit the ball better, and Jeff [Vincent] pitched a great game. He made a couple of pitches to me that he probably didn't mean to throw, but he got the job done," said Neuberger.
"He's also one of the best hitters in the county. His [first-inning] home run was a real line shot."
It was Vincent's bases-empty round-tripper (giving the senior star a school single-season record with four) that gave the Bruins their initial shot in the arm. Weimer and Vincent each stroked two RBI singles during the third and seventh innings, respectively, to give them their eventual margin of victory.
Severna Park started the year with a 15-game winning streak -- which included four consecutive midyear one-run victories over regular-season foes Southern and Northeast, along with Walkersville Easter Tourney wins over Hedgesville of West Virginia and Walkersville of Frederick County.
Six games later on May 4, the nationally ranked Falcons were tripped, 6-2, by Glen Burnie. Two days later, Chesapeake gave them their second consecutive setback, 13-7.
Pitt's club then finished the regular season with a 5-2 win over Annapolis and a 20-5 blasting of Old Mill.
"We made some bad pitches early on, but still, it was just a good high school baseball game," Pitt said. "We had a great season, but like I said, Broadneck was just one run better than we were today."