North Harford played heroically in 3A baseball semi's

Came up short, but should be proud

  • North Harford third baseman Jake Sayler throws to first to record the out in Tuesday's state semifinal game against La Plata.
North Harford third baseman Jake Sayler throws to first to record… (Staff photo by Nicole Munchel,…)
May 27, 2011

I am not at all ashamed to admit this to you, rather, I think it illustrates the emotional toll that Tuesday's Class 3A semifinal baseball match-up had on me and those other people lucky enough to have witnessed it, but I was almost brought to tears when the game was over. The tears that nearly came were not those of relief, nor were they of the happy variety. I felt them welling up because I was forced to watch the North Harford Hawks, a team I've covered for the past four seasons, walk off the field after having given everything they had in a 15-inning marathon, but still come up short, losing 2-1 to La Plata. The game was one of the most thrilling I've had the pleasure of attending, professionally, personally or otherwise, and I'll remember it for a long time, but I genuinely felt heartsick afterwards. I'm sure I would have felt that way no matter which team won, because both sides offered up so many acts of athletic heroism, large and small, that I didn't want anyone to go away a loser.

If I forget somebody or a particular play in this rant, please remember that the game went twice as long as a normal, seven-inning contest, and it was so full of action that I'd have to write for three days to get everything down, but here are the events that, for me, made this game what it was:

First off, there was not one pitchers' duel, but two, and the more exciting of the pair was not between the game's starters, but the two relievers, who essentially tossed complete-game shutouts out of the bullpen. North Harford's Kevin Mooney, three days removed from beating defending 3A state champ C. Milton Wright in the north regional final, came on in the seventh when starter Cody Brittain got into a jam, and for the next 6-2/3 innings he was simply overpowering. There's a little scribbling in my notebook, from the 13th inning, that reads, "If they score with Mooney on the hill, this thing is over." He struck out 13, and the only decent hit La Plata managed off him was a mistake, as the batter swung defensively at a breaking ball and hit it off his fists up the right field line. That's the kind of pitching Mooney was doing, where you're going to have to get lucky to beat him. He's the best pitcher I've seen during my time at The Aegis, and he's only a junior.

Opposite Mooney was La Plata's Anderson Burgess, a tall, skinny southpaw who took the mound in the sixth, and befuddled North Harford for the next eight innings (that's a complete game plus an inning, folks). Whereas Mooney's fastball is probably in the high 80's, and most of his breaking stuff is thrown really hard, Burgess' quick one looked like it might get up to 75 on a good day. Armed with that, and a slow-slower-slowest assortment of breaking balls and changeups, he put on one of the gutsiest performances I've seen. In the 14th inning, he grabbed his glove and headed for the mound for a ninth go-around with the Hawk lineup, but was called back by the La Plata coach, and surrendered the ball.

Speaking of gutsy, Brittain did something I've never seen in a high school game, that being a pitcher reentering the game after leaving the mound. Brittain tossed the first 6-1/3 innings, allowing just two hits and one unearned run, left until the 14th, and came back on to pitch another frame. That's not easy to do, I don't care whether you're in the big leagues or high school. Pitching is taxing on your arm, and to leave for nearly seven innings then start again, you need some mental toughness.

North Harford catcher Robert Campbell had two plays that had he not pulled them off, the game might not have gone to extra innings. In the second, Campbell caught a third strike from Brittain, then fired a throw to first, picking off the La Plata leadoff man, who had reached with a walk. In the sixth, with men on first and second and two outs, Campbell struck again, picking off the La Plata runner who'd gotten too far away from second base between pitches.

Another event that really stuck in my head occurred in the bottom of the fifth. With one man down, the La Plata batter hit a dying quail into short left field that looked like a sure single. North Harford shortstop Brady Maguire, however, sprinted, dove and somehow willed the ball into his glove a nanosecond before it hit the outfield grass. It was a spectacular play, and its importance was cemented in short order, as the next La Plata hitter smacked a double to right field that probably would have pushed his teammate home from first base.

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