Senior catcher Steve Weber said he and his teammates "could feel something special" when they walked on the baseball field yesterday at Severna Park.
It turned out to be the most special day in Severna Park baseball history as the Falcons won their first regional title since the state baseball tournament began in 1975 with an 8-7 victory over Long Reach in the Class 3A East final.
Right-hander Ryan Doot (6-2), who said he "couldn't sleep last night and couldn't sit still in school all day," struck out the last batter with the tying run on second base to end the game.
Doot, who scattered 11 hits, nine in the first and fourth innings when the Lightning scored all of its runs, lost in last year's 4A East final, 3-2, to eventual state champion Arundel.
The victory ended the 27-year hex on the Anne Arundel County champion Falcons, who had come close to the state semifinals many times before.
"Everybody was talking about it around school today, and the entire lacrosse team was here sitting on the hill," said Weber, who hit his eighth homer of the season in the first inning. "It's exciting, and we're all going to the lacrosse game tomorrow [Saturday]. But they got in free today and we have to pay to get in."
The No. 2 Falcons (19-5) will play in the 3A state semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Joe Cannon Stadium against West champion South Carroll, a 9-0 winner over Blake of Montgomery County.
"Graduating from here and getting a chance to come back here and coach meant a lot to me," said coach Jim McCandless, who played at Severna Park in the mid-1980s. (His younger brother Rob McCandless was an All-Metro infielder there in 1992.) "This makes up for the times we came close."
In a game involving two of the area's better hitting teams, the winning run was scored on Matt Wyble's fielder's choice in the fifth inning, and it was unearned.
Alex Vitale reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the fifth, moved to second on relief pitcher Mark Pavlosky's errant pickoff attempt and stole third with one out. Wyble then grounded to short to score Vitale.
Long Reach took a 3-0 lead in its first at-bat, but after Weber's homer to make it 3-1, the Falcons took advantage of five walks by Ryan Pope to score six runs in the third.
Pope's booming two-run homer tied the score at 7-7 in a four-run fourth by the Lightning. The visitors got only two hits off Doot the rest of the way.
"If you're going to lose, lose to the team that we think will be the state champs," said coach Tim O'Brien, who led 6-year old Long Reach to its best season at 15-9. "This is the best team we've had."
No. 11 Fallston 13, Patapsco 3: Junior outfielder Kenny Collins was 4-for-5 with three RBIs, and the Falcons (17-6) pounded out 20 hits in beating the host Patriots for the 3A North title, their third regional title overall.
Fallston will play the 3A South winner, La Plata, at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Joe Cannon Stadium.
South Carroll 9, Blake 0: Corey Greene and Chris Luette combined for five hits and six RBIs to pace the Cavaliers' rout of the visiting Bengals in the 3A West final, setting up a rematch with Severna Park in Tuesday's state semifinals.
Senior Ryan Mantua struck out 12 for the Cavaliers (13-9-1).
Parkville 6, Perry Hall 5: The host Knights (17-4) overcame a 4-0 deficit with three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, then scored two in the 10th to beat the Gators in the 4A North regional title game.
Winner of the regional title for the first time since 1997, Parkville will play High Point of Prince George's County, the 4A South champion, at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Prince George's Stadium.
Danny Amig hit a two-run triple in the sixth and came around to score on an Orlando Stevenson single, as the Knights cut the Gators' lead to 4-3.
Mike Nelson led off the bottom of the seventh with a home run to tie the score. Then in the 10th, after Perry Hall took a 5-4 lead on a two-out triple, junior Ryan Price reached base for the Knights on a bunt single. He came around to score on a throwing error. Nelson then singled, scoring Justin Griffith with the winning run.
Thomas Johnson 7, No. 10 Westminster 3: Garrett Hanselman was 2-for-3 with a home run, triple and two RBIs, and the host Patriots (16-10) scored five runs in the second inning to turn aside the Owls (17-5) in the 4A East championship game.
Sophomore left-hander Will Delawter threw a five-hitter and struck out five.
Sean Brewer led Westminster, going 2-for-3 with a double, triple and two RBIs.
No. 8 Atholton 7, Centennial 6: Sophomore Tommy Barker broke a fifth-inning tie with a bases-empty home run, propelling the host Raiders (18-5) to a win over the Eagles in the 2A West title game.
Atholton, which was beaten by Centennial in the regional final last season, will play Easton, the 2A East champion, at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Arundel.
Barker's shot was the third home run for the Raiders, who got two bases-empty blasts in the first inning from juniors James Conrad and Vyt Rivers to tie the score at 2.