HAGERSTOWN -- What took 57 games to create was brought down in just 15 minutes.
Severna Park Post 175 was eliminated from the American Legion state baseball tournament yesterday by a 5-4, 10-inning loss to Francis Scott Key Post 11 in the completion of a suspended game.
The score was tied, 4-4, with two outs in the top of the 10th inning Tuesday night when umpires stopped play because of a thick fog that settled into Municipal Stadium. The game was resumed at 9:45 a.m. yesterday, with Severna Park's Jeff Paxson on first base and Matt Weimer batting.
Weimer lined a single to right, moving Paxson to third and bringing up Steve Neuberger. The Severna Park center fielder bounced out to end the rally, and Francis Scott Key won it in the bottom half of the inning against Spartans reliever Rob McCandless.
Severna Park (40-18) split four games in the double-elimination tournament, falling well short of the lofty goals set by each member of the team.
"We thought we'd win it," said Spartans coach Charlie Becker. "We knew we had a good team. We've got the best team here if we hit. That's not sour grapes, it's the truth."
Becker voiced his concern over Severna Park's inconsistent offense before the tournament began last Saturday, and his worst fears were realized. The Spartans scored four runs in the second inning Tuesday night to take a 4-1 lead, but were shut out the rest of the way.
"Hitting is the problem," Becker said. "Even though [Mayo coach] Bernie Walter said we had all these sticks [bats], I knew what my team was doing. We just weren't hitting the ball.
"That's the way it goes. Somebody's got to lose and somebody's got to win."
It wasn't hard to distinguish which team had lost. The Severna Park players sat motionless in their dugout, some of them staring straight ahead, others with their eyes cast downward. No one said a word until after a tournament director requested that the area be cleared for the next game.
"We didn't hit the ball at all," said right fielder John Novak. "Most of the time, we come through in the late innings instead of the early innings. So, I figured since we hit the ball in the earlier innings, we'd hit it all game long. But I don't know what the problem was.
"It's something that should have never happened."
Francis Scott Key scored a run in the first inning and two more in the fifth off Severna Park starter Glenn Shiring, who entered the tournament with a 5-2 record and 2.34 ERA.
Chris Sutch, who led the team in saves with six, gave up the tying run in the ninth on a two-out single. A batter had reached base earlier in the inning when Sutch fell on the wet grass while trying to field a slow roller.
The game was halted after Paxson singled to right with two outs in the 10th.
"I think they made the right decision," said Francis Scott Key coach Mike Long, whose team had outscored its opponents, 53-16, in four victories, including a 27-5 rout of Clinton Post 259. "The kid hit the ball to right field, and the umpire behind the plate said, 'I can't see the ball, I can't see the right fielder.' "
By the next morning, Severna Park had seen its hopes for a state championship come to a disappointing end.
Francis Scott Key's Ron Shankle lofted a one-out double to right, just beyond the outstretched glove of the retreating Paxson. After a fly out, Chip Phillips singled to left, with Shankle sliding in ahead of Weimer's throw.
"We should have won," Paxson said, walking through the parking lot with the rest of his teammates. "We just didn't play up to our ability."
Becker said, "They're a good bunch of kids. They've got nothing xTC to hold their heads down about. They worked hard, they all put out. They did their best and that's all you can ask."