Merson, Atholton rally by Mt. Hebron

Pitcher caps 3-run 7th with game-winning single


May 02, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Atholton's Steve Merson looked like a hard-luck loser again as the Raiders entered the bottom of the seventh inning trailing No. 6-ranked and league-leading Mount Hebron by two runs yesterday.

Merson (3-2), headed to Towson on a partial baseball scholarship, had lost to Mount Hebron earlier in the season when his defense let him down, and history was ready to repeat itself.

Instead, No. 12-ranked Atholton rallied for three runs to capture a 5-4 victory, and Merson struck the game-winning single. He drove home James Conrad, whose two-out, two-run double had tied the game.

The back-to-back base hits prevented Mount Hebron (13-4 overall, 12-3 league) from clinching a tie for the Howard County championship, ruined a fine pitching effort by Adam Grap and extended Atholton's winning streak to seven games.

Atholton's win cut the Vikings' lead over the Raiders to one game with three games to play. Mount Hebron lost for only the second time in 11 games.

It was the second straight day that Atholton rallied late in the game. The Raiders scored twice in the sixth inning against Glenelg on Tuesday to tie, and then won with four runs in the seventh inning, 13-9.

"Things are coming together for us now," said Merson. "I had a 3-2 count and was up on the plate just looking for a pitch to hit and got a fastball down the middle. Their guy [Grap] worked the outside the whole game."

Atholton's bats had been on a tear. The Raiders outscored their opponents 73-19 over the previous six games until running into Grap.

"He [Grap] really located his pitches well and deserved a better fate," said Raiders coach Kevin Kelly. "It was not good defense by either team. A last-inning rally two straight days by us was really something."

Mount Hebron scored once in the third inning on an RBI single by Andrew McSkimming, and twice in the fourth inning on three errors. The Vikings added a seventh-inning insurance run on a two-out walk by McSkimming and a double by Nick Hoffner.

Atholton (13-4, 11-4) scored two unearned runs in the third inning before Tom Barker led off the seventh with a swinging bunt single down the third-base line. Tom Newcomb walked, and Chris Trigger bunted the runners to second and third. Andy Lancos struck out, but Conrad hit Grap's first pitch to center field to tie the game.

"I was glad I was up in that situation," Conrad said. "I felt nervous but confident. I was focused, and he threw me a hittable pitch."

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