Who put a curse on the Mount Hebron baseball team this season?
The spirited and classy Vikings have one hard-luck story after another to tell, but nothing tops Friday's Class 2A Region II semifinal loss to Overlea, 7-6.
Fourth-seeded Mount Hebron (13-8) battled heart and soul against top-seeded Overlea (14-3), rallying three times from deficits and finally forging a 6-6 tie with a two-run fifth inning.
The teams then played four tension-packed scoreless innings until Overlea pushed over the winning run in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Mount Hebron pitcher Ken Reynolds, a short reliever this season, had pitched five scoreless innings in relief of starter Alan Vandenberg from the fifth through the ninth. Only one Overlea batter reached base off Reynolds during that time, and that was on an error.
The long-awaited rain lightly began to fall in the 10th inning, however, and by the time Reynolds had retired the first two Overlea batters in the 10th, it was raining hard.
That's when the curve-balling right-hander lost his grip on things. The wet ball and steady rain made it nearly impossible to throw a strike.
Reynolds walked a batter, threw a wild pitch, intentionally walked the next batter to set up a possible force out and walked a third batter while bouncing a couple of balls in the dirt along the way.
Finally, Overlea's No. 7 batter, John Kopajtic, lofted a fly ball to left field that under normal conditions easily would have been caught.
Instead, left fielder Mike Cole slipped on the wet grass as he attempted to come in. He got back to his knees, dove and just missed making the catch, and the winning run scored.
"I think they [umpires] should have stopped the game," Vikings coach Dave Appleby said. "It's a tough way to lose."
Reynolds, who pitched his best game this season, came up with the classiest response possible under the circumstances.
"I thought it was a fair game," Reynolds said. "We had our chances and couldn't get it done. They [Overlea] were seeded No. 1 and we wanted to surprise them, and we couldn't have asked for a better performance. Both teams hit the ball hard. We fielded excellently."
Mount Hebron hitting heroes included Tony Yanero, who was 3-for-5 with an RBI. He drove a ball to deep center in the ninth inning that looked like a home run, but was run down by Overlea's center fielder.
Mike Fadrowski hit a single and had two RBI. Mike Carter had a triple, a single and three RBI.
Overlea, which staged three two-out, bases-empty rallies, led 2-0 after one inning, 3-1 after two innings, 5-4 after three innings and 6-4 after four innings.
Mount Hebron scored once on singles by Chris Leinauer and Carter in the second inning. The Vikings scored three times on a single by Ron Bates, a double by Yanero, a fielder's choice by Leinauer and a single by Mike Fadrowski in the third inning.
The final two Viking runs in the fifth inning scored on Yanero's single, an error that allowed Fadrowski to reach second and Carter's triple.
"We had a well-balanced team and had fun with what we did this year," Reynolds, a senior, said. "No one will leave here today ashamed of what we did."
Mount Hebron's hard-luck included the loss of its No. 1 pitcher, Mike Miller, early in the season. He was suspended for breaking a county regulation and not allowed
to return to the team.
It included an 8-6 loss to county co-champ Glenelg after an umpire ruled a Mount Hebron infielder didn't tag second base on a double play.
The next Glenelg batter homered to win the game.
It included a 5-4 loss to county co-champ Atholton after the Raiders rallied for four runs in the bottom of the last inning.
It included six one-run losses and back-to-back 2-1 losses to Glenelg and Centennial late in the season.
It shouldn't have happened to such a good team.