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Baseball

Skipjacks impressive while sweeping nationally ranked Cecil, 11-0 and 4-3
Bruce throws one-hitter in opener; Chesapeake erases 3-0 deficit in nightcap

WYE MILLS – It’s really hard to say which game featured the Skipjacks’ most impressive performance.

Chesapeake College totally dominated nationally ranked Cecil College, 11-0 in five innings, as Skipjack ace Kurt Bruce threw a one-hitter in Game 1 of Friday’s Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader. Yet the Skipjacks’ Game 2 performance – where they rallied from a 3-0, fifth-inning deficit to post a 4-3 win – was special in its own way.

"We just came out hungry today," said Chesapeake head coach Frank Szymanski after sweeping the No. 19 team in the latest NJCAA Division II poll. "The momentum from the first game didn’t carry over into the second game, but we just kept competing. We’ve been coming back all year and I knew we had a chance to do it again."

Bruce was near-perfect in Game 1, striking out eight and allowing only Brandon Scott’s two-out, third-inning double.

"It was a nice hit," Bruce said of Scott’s double to left off a fastball over the plate that was supposed to go outside. "I made a mistake and he took advantage of it. I just put it right down the middle and he was waiting for it."

That was the only mistake made by Bruce, who was backed by an 11-hit attack that scored nine runs in the first two innings.

"It was nice to see everybody get the bats going at the same time," said Bruce. "It just shows what we can do as a team. Cecil’s a pretty good team and for us to beat them 11-0 says something."

Szymanski was pleased to see his Skipjacks (5-1 overall, 3-1 league) get Bruce some run support.

"He’s been in so many tight games for us over the last two years that to see him get that kind of run support was nice," said Szymanski. "He had control of four pitches and he could throw them where he wanted to throw them for strikes."

Eight of Chesapeake’s nine starters had hits, including two each by Mathiew Vallieres (double, triple, two runs, RBI), Tony Mitchell (double, two runs, three RBI), and Andrew Markey (double, two runs, two RBI). Mike Liddell (double) scored twice.

The Skipjacks scored four times in the first inning against Cecil starter Jerry McLaughlin, then knocked out McLaughlin during a five-run second inning. After that, the only mystery was whether Bruce would get the perfect game.

Game 2 was an entirely different story. Bill Bretz’s two-out, two-run double to right in the top of the third inning gave Cecil a 2-0 lead, and the Seahawks added a fourth-inning run on an infield error to make it 3-0.

Cecil starter Tyler Bugna took a shutout into the fifth, but Brian Brown reached on a leadoff infield error – one of four miscues by the Seahawks in Game 2 – to open the inning. Derek Richards then walked, Brown stole third, and Vallieres walked to load the bases.

Liddell (two RBI) singled to left center to score Brown, and Richards came home on Mitchell’s double-play grounder to get the Skipjacks within 3-2. J.V. Herbert (2-for-3, RBI) followed with a single in the hole to plate Vallieres with the tying run.

The Skipjacks pushed across the winning run in the home sixth.

J.T. Gregory reached on a leadoff infield error. Two outs later, the Skipjacks pulled off a perfect run-and-hit as Gregory took off for second and Richards singled into the hole that had just been vacated by second baseman Brian Wilde.

Bugna ran the count to 2-1 on the next hitter, Vallieres, and was replaced by reliever Jose Rivera. Rivera completed the base-loading walk to Vallieres, and fell into a 3-1 hole on the next hitter, Liddell.

After a foul ball – originally thought to be fair by the Seahawks, with Rivera throwing to first for the would-be third out – ran the count to 3-2, Liddell took a borderline pitch for ball four to force in Gregory with the go-ahead run.

Chris Custer, who took over for starter Evan Ford in the sixth, struck out two Seahawks while pitching a perfect seventh inning to earn the win. Ford allowed four hits and three walks while striking out four in his five innings, while Custer had four strikeouts and a walk in two hitless innings.

"I have a lot of faith in our catcher (Richards)," said Custer. "I throw the ball where he wants me to throw it. My curve ball was breaking today, but not staying over the plate for strikes, so I just went straight at ’em with the fastball."

"Both guys (Ford and Custer) threw strikes and kept us in the game," said Szymanski.

Notes: The Skipjacks have played five of their six games against teams ranked in the NJCAA Division II national poll. Chesapeake is now 4-1 against ranked teams, including a season-opening doubleheader sweep of No. 16 Lackawanna College and a 10-8 loss to No. 6 Frederick Community College.

Chesapeake will now play nine games over five days on its annual Spring Break trip to Florida.

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