HAGERSTOWN -- Severna Park Post 175 manager Charlie Becker had planned on saving pitcher Jeff Vincent for today's round of the American Legion state baseball tournament.
That is, until Becker found out Sunday night that his team might be back home by then.
A 6-4 loss to Funkstown Post 211 left Severna Park on the brink of elimination and caused Becker to alter his rotation for yesterday's game against Clinton Post 259.
And Vincent saw to it that the move paid off handsomely.
Severna Park took the lead in the second inning without getting a base hit, and Vincent took care of the rest in an 8-2 victory over Clinton at Municipal Stadium in Hagerstown.
A win today would advance Severna Park to tomorrow's 10 a.m. finals.
Vincent went the first seven innings in upping his season's record to 4-1. He didn't surrender a hit until the fourth inning, when Clinton's Dwight Bradford and Dwayne Crawley singled with one out. James Jordan then bounced into a double play to end the threat.
Vincent allowed four hits, walked one and struck out two in improving Severna Park's record to 2-1 in the double-elimination tournament, and 40-17 overall.
"Jeff did a great job, and that's why we threw him there," Becker
said. "We were going to save him, but you can't save him and then go home with him rested."
Vincent, a three-sport standout at Broadneck High School, said the team didn't approach this game differently from any other, even though so much was at stake.
"We just wanted to come out here and swing the bats like we did, not come out tight, and just play the way we've been playing the whole year," he said.
Not everything went as planned early on, when Severna Park committed two errors in the bottom of the first inning to put runners on first and second with two outs. But the team settled down after center fielder Steve Neuberger made a lunging catch of a fly ball from Crawley to close the inning.
"We probably only averaged one error a game all year," Becker said. "I would have really been surprised if we had had errors all through the game."
Three walks, a passed ball and an error led to Severna Park's first three runs off Crawley -- and all the cushion Vincent would need.
"You win games by capitalizing on their mistakes," Becker said, "and you lose when they capitalize on yours."
Severna Park broke the game open -- and knocked Crawley out of it -- with a four-run uprising in the sixth.
With two outs, John Novak and Vincent singled, and Novak scored when the ball rolled past fallen left fielder Carlos Simmons. Byron Druzgal doubled off the glove of third baseman Jordan to score Vincent, and Jeff Paxson clubbed a two-run inside-the-park homer to right-center field to make it 7-0.
Crawley left after 5 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and throwing 102 pitches.
Clinton reached Vincent for a
run in the sixth and added an unearned run in the ninth off reliever Steve Foreman.
Severna Park scored in the eighth off Clinton reliever Joe Clarkson. Novak singled to open the inning, and two outs later, Paxson brought him home with a single to center.
"If we get eight runs every game, we're going to win it," Becker said.
Or sometimes, even half that amount.
With Rob McCandless on the mound Saturday, Severna Park won the first game of the tournament, 4-0, over Dundalk Post 38. McCandless went the distance, giving up three hits and striking out eight. He threw only 81 pitches.
"That was the best game I've ever seen him pitch," Becker said.