7th-inning dive lands Fallston in 3A final

Cougars top La Plata, 5-4, face Damascus Saturday

Baseball state semifinal

May 25, 2000|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was the dive that kept top-ranked Fallston from taking a baseball fall yesterday.

Leading by a run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs but a runner at second, the Cougars held on for a 5-4 win over La Plata in the Class 3A state semifinal, thanks to a prayer of a catch by left fielder Matt Toomey.

La Plata's Jason Boyd, who had homered earlier in the game, hit a shot to left that looked out of the park for what would have been a game-winning homer.

Left fielder Toomey broke back and got near Arundel High's warning track before realizing that wind had killed the drive's momentum. He suddenly changed direction and dived forward to make the final out, putting Fallston (20-1) into its first state final.

Fallston will face Damascus in the Class 3A championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.

For Toomey, it will be a trip to remember.

"I saw [the ball] come off the bat, and it looked like it was going deep," Toomey said of the final play. "Then the wind got it, and it just died."

After watching his left fielder hit into a key double play in last year's regional loss to C.Milton Wright, Cougars coach Robert Limpert said afterward that he was breathing a sigh of relief.

"I don't think he would've been able to live it down if he would've dropped that ball," Limpert said. "I'm just happy for him."

It was a fitting end for Fallston, which on Tuesday avenged its only loss of the season with a 13-2 win over Harford County rival Bel Air in the regional final.

Limpert acknowledged that he was a bit worried about a letdown after what he called a "grudge match" but knew his team was up for the challenge after the first half inning.

Fallston took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, when Steve Little doubled to right-center, scoring leadoff man Bryan Owens, and scored two batters later on Justin Collins' groundout to first.

La Plata (19-3), from Charles County, also came out swinging, tying the score in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back homers by Boyd to right and Kenneth Bragg to center. It was Bragg's 11th in 53 at-bats this season.

"After the first inning, I just started mixing my pitches and everything started working," said Collins, Fallston's No.2 pitcher, who entered with a 1.07 ERA.

The Cougars went into the lead for good in the middle innings, taking advantage of Steve Little's leadoff double in the third to score one run and coming back with two in the fourth, one on an error, the other on Owens' RBI single to right.

"I was surprised with their sticks," said La Plata coach Daniel Devitis. "They didn't hit a lot of dribblers. They hit ... line drives."

Now, Fallston's task turns turns to perennial Montgomery County power Damascus. The Cougars will pitch ace Phil Akens, a right-hander who throws over 90mph and is 7-0 this season, on three days' rest.

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