With a no-hitter vs. Centennial last week, left-hander Ed Bach may have turned around Atholton's season.

Stopper restarts Raiders' engine

Sports Beat

Howard County schools

April 20, 2005|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Every good team's pitching rotation has one special pitcher referred to as the stopper. He can be depended upon to end losing streaks or beat the top opposing teams. And he is talented enough to carry a team through the state playoffs.

Ed Bach qualifies as Atholton's stopper.

The No. 7 Raiders, expected to contend for county and state titles this season, stumbled to a 3-2 league start and had lost two of their previous three games when Bach took the mound against hard-hitting, defending Class 3A state champion Centennial last Wednesday.

Bach stopped the then-No. 10 Eagles cold, pitching a no-hitter, striking out 16 and perhaps turning around his team's season.

The senior left-hander said he has been pitching since he was 8, and it was his first no-hitter. The 16 strikeouts also were a personal best.

He also did it in a must-win game for the Raiders, who had fallen two games behind then-front-running and undefeated Reservoir in the county race.

Reservoir had a day off that day, and most of the Gators were there to watch Bach's performance, putting a little more pressure on him.

He handled it as easily as he did the lineup of Centennial, the best hitting team in the county.

And he punctuated his effort when he faced two of his Frozen Ropes summer-league teammates, 2004 All-County catcher Dan Shillingburg and Scott Swinson, in the last inning.

"I wasn't even aware I had a no-hitter until the last inning," Bach said. "No one said anything about it. Then I tried not to think about it. I wasn't thinking about the strikeouts, either.

"I don't really know their hitting styles. I just wanted to get them out any way possible. I tried to keep it away from Dan, because I know how fast he can turn on the ball. It was exciting. There was a lot of pressure. But my arm wasn't tired. I just tried to relax."

After the leadoff batter reached on an error, Bach struck out Shillingburg for the first out in the last inning and retired Swinson on a pop-up to the first baseman before striking out another strong hitter, Austin Harclerode.

The victory touched off a celebration at the pitcher's mound, as Bach, 6 feet 1, 170 pounds, was engulfed by his teammates.

"He's been good in big games," said Atholton coach Kevin Kelly. "He beat Glenelg in the regionals last year when we weren't supposed to win. He was our best pitcher last year and kept us in every game he pitched, but we hit under .300 as a team. He gives us a chance every time out."

Bach was 6-3 and won two playoff games last season. Without him pitching, the Raiders lost the regional championship game to Southern.

This year, he's 5-0 with 58 strikeouts, 12 walks and two earned runs in 32 innings.

Bach's only no-decision was an impressive seven-inning effort against Mount Hebron in which he allowed one unearned run. The Raiders lost that game in the eighth inning after a relief pitcher entered the game.

"He throws very well," said Mount Hebron coach John Sunderdick. "He gets ahead of hitters and challenges them and his ball moves around."

Bach has beaten River Hill, Long Reach (in relief), Hammond, Centennial and Wilde Lake.

Kelly was most impressed that 66 of Bach's 103 pitches against Centennial were strikes.

"Control and high pitch counts have been problems for me in the past," Bach said. "My fastball tends to sail high."

He has hit four batters.

"I have a changeup and curveball, but I have best control of my fastball," Bach said.

Although at Kelly's urging he played football his junior and senior years to improve strength and toughness, Bach is a year-round baseball player. He has already committed to UMBC on a partial baseball scholarship.

Last fall, Bach pitched for Atholton in the Josh Siegert Sunday fall league, and in the winter he pitched two times per week at the Frozen Ropes indoor facility in Glen Burnie, where he was coached by Pat Boucher.

"If he keeps his velocity he can be a pro draft prospect," Boucher said. "His work ethic is incredible. He's a late bloomer. UMBC got a steal."

Said Bach about Boucher: "He really knows pitching and helped me become better. Everything he's told me has helped."

Bach worked at improving his velocity by following a weighted-ball program, throwing sometimes with heavier balls and sometimes with lighter ones.

"I also learned to keep my upper body in sync with my lower body, to keep my arm fluid during delivery and to follow through," he said. "I do a lot of shoulder exercises at Frozen Ropes to strengthen those."

He also has been strong in the classroom. Bach has a weighted 3.6 grade point average and a 1,250 score on the old SAT.

THE QUOTE

"That's the best game we've played all season." River Hill coach Rick Lloyd, after his ace pitcher, Mike Walters, two-hit Mount Hebron on Friday in a 10-0 victory. Walters struck out nine and walked one.

THE NUMBER

20 Average margin of victory for Mount Hebron's girls lacrosse team this season. The largest margin was 29-1 over Long Reach. The smallest margin was 14-9 over Roland Park.

THE WEEK AHEAD

TENNIS

Wilde Lake at Centennial

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