When Chesapeake-AA pitcher Ryan Moore hung a curveball to Jay Zwirlein in the first inning, the Severna Park third baseman just missed and hit a sacrifice fly. Moore again hung a curveball on Zwirlein's second at-bat.
This time, he didn't miss.
Zwirlein belted a three-run home run in the third inning that broke the game open for No. 16 Severna Park, and Pete Buck tossed a six-hitter as the host Falcons defeated No. 20 Chesapeake, 7-2, in an Anne Arundel County 4A League game yesterday.
Severna Park (6-3, 4-2) finished with only seven hits, but six of them led to runs. Buck led the way with two hits, but Zwirlein had the biggest one of all.
The game remained close early. In the first inning, after Scott Neuberger (1-for-2, two runs, one RBI) scored on a Matt Griswold ground out, Zwirlein drove in Buck (2-for-3, two runs) with a sacrifice fly to left field for a 2-0 lead.
Billy Dierker tied it for Chesapeake (7-4, 5-4) with a two-run homer in the top of the third. He drove a Buck fastball over the fence in left-center.
But the Falcons quickly answered. Neuberger walked in the bottom of the inning, and Buck moved him to second with a single. Griswold (two RBIs) then gave Severna Park the lead once more when he doubled in Neuberger.
Zwirlein (four RBIs) then followed with a high three-run homer just inside the left-field foul pole, 309 feet away. The homer put the Falcons in control with a 6-2 lead.
"I wasn't trying for a home run," said Zwirlein. "I was looking for a curve, and he hung a curve."
Said Severna Park coach Jim Pitt: "That was the turning point in the ball game."
It also proved to be a turning point for Buck. The right-hander had drifted away from mixing his good curveball and change-up with his fastball and tried to overpower hitters for a while.
But after Dierker homered, Buck realized the need to get back to his strengths.
"I know I'm not the 90-mph pitcher, so I concentrate on my breaking stuff," said Buck, now 3-0. "I got away from my breaking stuff in the inning they scored. Then, I jumped back into it."
And the Cougars fell out of it offensively. Jared Vogt followed the Dierker homer in the third with a single, but the Cougars managed just one hit the rest of the way.
Once Buck got command of his breaking ball, he threw off the Cougars' timing. Chesapeake hit only one ball out of the infield after the third inning -- and none of its final 13 batters could do so.
Chesapeake did, however, have some scoring chances. The Cougars put two runners on in the first and came up empty. They put runners on first and second in the fifth -- and again did not score.
Chesapeake coach Jim Simms thought his hitters simply were not aggressive enough at the plate.
"We missed some opportunities," said Simms. "When you get up there looking, nothing good is going to happen."