For the second straight day, underdog Hammond surrendered eight runs in the final inning to lose to a Howard County championship contender.
Yesterday, it was Atholton's turn to bang nine hits and three home runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat the Bears, 17-14.
The day before, Glenelg had rapped nine hits and three home runs in the final inning to win, 10-8.
Overall, No. 16-ranked Atholton (3-0 overall, 3-0 league) clubbed six home runs, including a third-inning grand slam by Doug Airel. Adam Beaver and Andy Severt homered for Atholton in the sixth inning to put the Raiders ahead, 9-7.
Then, after Hammond's Keith Umberger smoked a grand slam 330 feet to left field, putting the Bears ahead after six innings, 12-9, Seth Williams, Ryan Schulz and Nick Hartman all homered in the seventh for Atholton.
Hartman, Ross Laidig and Schulz each had two hits in the seventh inning. Beaver and Airel each had RBI singles.
Strangely, the inning only ended because Atholton coach Kevin Kelly ordered Wade Zancan to bunt to the pitcher for the final out. Darkness was quickly overtaking the field in the 3-hour, 40-minute contest.
"And the umpire told me that if he had to call it for darkness before we finished our at-bat, then the score would revert back to what it was before the seventh inning began, and that Hammond would win," said Kelly, an expectant father carrying a cell phone and ready to leave in case his wife's delivery time arrived.
"It's been a little bit 'loony tunes,' trying to coach and waiting for the baby," he said.
Not quite as 'loony tunes' as it has been the past two days for Hammond coach Bob Maxey, who has watched his team squander two comfortable last-inning leads. He used six pitchers trying to stop Atholton's 17-hit attack.
"We need to finish," said Maxey, in the understatement of the year.
Hammond (1-2, 1-2), which had 10 hits and scored in every inning, almost did rally in the bottom of the seventh. The Bears scored two runs and had the bases loaded with one out when Nick Peter hit into a double play to end the game.
Beaver, playing third base, caught Peter's grounder, stepped on third and threw to first. It was his second outstanding fielding play of the day.
Laidig and Severt each had three hits for Atholton. Umberger had three hits for Hammond.
Pub Date: 3/26/98