North Harford pitcher wants perfect repeat in 3A title game

May 23, 2012|By Sandra McKee | The Baltimore Sun

When North Harford pitcher Kevin Mooney opened his eyes Wednesday morning, the first thing he thought was that the Hawks were going to the Class 3A state championship game.

"Right away I thought of that," Mooney, the team's senior captain, said. "Then I remembered -- the perfect game. It was just starting to sink in, and I smiled and thought, 'Wow!'"

The fact Mooney slept at all Tuesday night might be almost as amazing as the fact he threw his first perfect game, and it came in the 3A state semifinal against North Hagerstown, a game the No. 1 Hawks won, 4-0.

Now he gets to try to do it again at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ripken Stadium in the championship game against J. M. Bennett. The Clippers are the defending 3A champions, 20-0 this season and on a 42-game winning streak. They were 22-0 last year.

But North Harford coach Tim Larrimore thinks his team has the advantage.

"They've been undefeated the last two years," he said. "The pressure is on them to keep it going, and to carry on undefeated that long is very tough. I think we have the momentum."

North Harford (23-2) is experiencing its first trip to the championship game. The baseball program started in 1960, and Larrimore has been building the program toward this goal for 22 years.

This week, the Hawks moved into the No. 1 spot in The Sun's poll. Who knows what they'll be capable of Saturday?   

"I see it as a challenge," said Mooney, who will be playing at Maryland next year. "I think there would be nothing sweeter than winning North Harford's first championship and knocking off a [42]-game winning streak at the same time. Winning the title has been one of our huge goals this year."

A perfect game was one of Mooney's goals, too. He wrote it down in early March before the season started. Larrimore said he expected it to come earlier in the season, "against weaker competition."

Instead, Mooney threw the best game of his life against North Hagerstown, an 18-2-1 team that Larrimore said was known for its very good hitting.

Going into the game, he was 8-0 with an 0.27 ERA but had never had a no-hitter, let alone a perfect game.

"Kevin only threw a little over 70 pitches," Larrimore said. "The game went by fast. The seventh inning came very quickly, and it was almost the seventh inning before I put it together in my head that he had a chance for perfection."

Mooney said it wasn't until the sixth or seventh inning that he knew "it was 100 percent possible for me to do."

Of course, one day after perfection, he has to be asked: Can he do it again?

There's a boyish laugh over the phone.

 "I hope so," he said. "I don't know if it will happen again. A lot of things have to come together. A perfect game is rare, and I have no idea how I will come back after a game like that.

"But I only threw 75 pitches and I'll be starting again on three days' rest. That's pretty close to normal. So, I'm going to go through my normal practice routines and prepare the same way. If I pitch like I did [Tuesday] night, everything should be fine."

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