In the bottom of the third inning Thursday night at Thomas Run Park, the earth shook, angels wept and trumpets sounded -- at least for Fortunato Brothers as they mounted a serious rally against the mighty Cecil Johnies in semipro baseball action.
But after sending eight men to the plate and scoring three runs in the inning, Fortunato Brothers were brought back to reality by Cecil Johnies.
Johnies shut them down.
Fortunato Brothers failed to get a hit in the final four innings and lost to the perennial Maryland Semi-Pro League power, 7-3, giving Johnies its 31st win in 32 tries this season.
"Our team is a big-hitting team, but sometimes we go into our little slumps," said Fortunato manager Tom Walter.
"Against a team like this, you can't afford to do that."
Though 14 Fortunato hitters managed to reach base, only three did it via the base hit -- all in the third inning.
And, worse, of the seven runners Fortunato moved into scoring position, only one crossed the plate.
Credit for holding Fortunato Brothers off goes in part to the throwing arm of Johnies right fielder John O'Neill.
With Fortunato trailing, 6-2 in the third inning, and runners at second and third, Jim Ross lined a single into right field. Sean Pollak scored easily on the play, making it 6-3. But trail runner Bill O'Patterson was gunned down on O'Neill's throw to the plate. That essentially ended the rally.
"If that fourth run was safe at home, we'd be right back in the ball game," said Mike Cannaliato, who had smacked a two-run homer to left earlier in the inning to start the comeback. "As it turned out, it was kind of a letdown."
A three-inning offensive explosion by Johnies to start the game kept them upbeat throughout. Johnies pounded out nine hits in the first three innings, including six for extra bases. All told, 10 of their first 18 batters reached base against a rotating corps of Fortunato pitchers, and Johnies ran to a 6-0 lead.
Though they failed to get a hit after the third, they loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and again in the sixth -- on five Fortunato walks and a batter struck at the plate. Still, Fortunato added only one more run.
Johnies' offensive prowess was impressive to Fortunato coach Walter, whose second-year team will face the league leaders three more times in the next week.
"They played well," said Walter, "But we're coming together as a team. We're only in our second year, but we've come a long way."
Johnies is perhaps at its pinnacle. Team members discuss the downside of the season -- a single loss to Aberdeen.
"We expect to win every game," said manager Eddie Lynch. "We start the season with the goal of going 50-0. We set a high standard. Right now, we're not far off."