L. Reach getting used to upsets

After springing victory over Mount Hebron, test from Sev. Park is next

High Schools

May 17, 2002|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That would be the title of the movie if they ever made one about the Long Reach baseball team.

The Lightning (15-8) started the season by losing five of its first seven games, and quickly sank beneath everyone's radar screen.

But since losing to Wilde Lake on April 8, Long Reach has won 13 of 16 games. The Lightning has beaten every county team at least once, while posting its first winning season in the school's six-year history.

The Lightning is definitely on everyone's radar screen now, especially following its 7-6 extra-inning upset of Mount Hebron in the Class 3A East region semifinals Wednesday, just the latest in a series of stunning Lightning upsets.

No. 6-ranked Mount Hebron (15-6) was the county champion, had beaten Long Reach twice, including once by the 10-run rule and appeared on its way to a showdown with No. 2-ranked Severna Park today.

Instead, unranked Long Reach will take its seven-game winning streak to Severna Park to try for one more upset and its first regional championship.

Lightning coach Tim O'Brien can barely control his enthusiasm about this team. "I've never coached a tougher bunch of resilient, hard-nosed kids, and I'll be genuinely sad when I'm not around them anymore. They've been a treat."

"That Mount Hebron game was the best game ever played by a Long Reach team. We were supposed to get our brains beat in by them, but our kids didn't fold. Every pitch mattered. Every swing counted. It was a pressure cooker. Our parents were hoarse and exhausted. We gave them a great show."

Long Reach came from behind to tie or lead three times against the Vikings. Mount Hebron, which banged out 20 hits, gained a 6--5 lead by scoring one run in the top of the ninth.

Scott Peddicord led off the bottom of the ninth with a double off Vikings reliever John Zabel. Jason Scott was hit by a pitch. Josh Prozeralik loaded the bases with a bunt single. D.J. Disbrow was called out on a squeeze bunt for kicking the ball on the way to first base. Mike Witmer reached on an infield error, as the tying run scored. And Jeremy Scott's chopper went over the third baseman's head to score his brother, Jason, with the winning run.

"This team is inventive, creative and always finds a different way to win," O'Brien said. "We don't play normal baseball. Every day's an adventure. We can make your jaw drop by doing some of the ugliest things. They don't understand that they're not good. They seriously believe they can win. It doesn't bother them who the other team is. I admire their spirit. No one is supposed to have this much fun."

Offense is the name of the game for Long Reach, and O'Brien credits batting coach Pat Miles for that.

"He's made a big difference. He's helped the kids learn to relax, and is the reason our kids look forward to practice every day. He's great with kids."

The Lightning has scored 206 runs in 23 games for an average of nine runs per game.

Pitching has not been a strength. The Lightning allows seven runs per game and has used seven different pitchers.

"Our best pitcher has an ERA of over six runs per game," said O'Brien. "Nobody's spooked by us. We just go out and beat you."

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