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Austin´s ninth-inning homer sinks Skipjacks
Cecil rallies from 4-0 hole to hand Chesapeake tough loss

WYE MILLS, April 26 – Don´t plan to leave early when these teams play each other.

Spike Austin hit a two-run, game-winning homer as part of a three-run ninth inning Tuesday afternoon as Cecil Community College´s baseball team rallied past host Chesapeake College, 6-4. Cecil´s win avenged last month´s 5-4 loss to the Skipjacks, in which Chesapeake scored four ninth-inning runs to erase a 4-1 deficit.

Austin said the Seahawks´ recent run – now 16 wins in their last 23 games – had the team "feeling pretty confident" heading to the ninth inning Tuesday despite a 4-3 deficit.

"We´ve actually been playing a lot better lately," said Austin after the Seahawks improved to 25-13 overall and 18-9 in Maryland JuCo. "If we continue to play like this, we should get a pretty good seed in regionals."

Chesapeake (27-8, 11-5) seemed in good position heading to the ninth, as Skipjack starter Bryan Brainer turned a 4-3 lead over to closer Matt Clark, who entered the game leading the state in saves.

Clark, however, walked leadoff hitter Mike Mundy on four straight pitches, then went to 3-0 on Austin before battling back to a 3-2 count. Austin sent the payoff pitch over the right-field fence, giving the Seahawks their first lead of the game.

"At first I didn´t think there was any way it was going out," said Austin. "I think the wind may have helped it."

Mike McGrady then reached when second baseman Ryan Bell booted McGrady´s grounder. McGrady went to second on Scott Rothwell´s sacrifice bunt, took third on Eric Trent´s groundout, and scored an insurance run on Hong Kim´s two-out single in the hole to make it 6-4.

The Skipjacks put together a ninth-inning rally of their own as Clarke Rollins coaxed a one-out walk out of Cecil reliever Mundy and Will Delawter followed with a single. That´s where the rally ended, however, as Mike Kelch (2-for-5) grounded into a game-ending, 6-4-3 double play.

Szymanski praised what turned out to be another fine performance by Brainer (eight innings, eight strikeouts, three walks, six hits).

"What more can you say about him? He went out there and did a great job again. He threw the ball extremely well," said Szymanski, who also gave his closer a vote of confidence.

"These type of things happen in the role that Matt has on this team," said Szymanski. "The good closers shake off bad games. Relievers have to have the right mentality, and he´s got that mentality. I know he´ll be able to rebound."

Chesapeake immediately jumped on Cecil starter James Balenger as Justin Armiger led off the home first with a triple and Rollins walked. Delawter (3-for-5, run, two RBI) then grounded back to Balenger, but the pitcher´s throw to second went into center field, allowing Armiger to score for a 1-0 lead.

Kelch then singled to load the bases, but third baseman Mundy turned Robbie Miller´s grounder into a 5-2-3 double play to get the Seahawks out of the jam. A second-inning double play also bailed out Balenger, who issued a pair of one-out walks before Armiger hit into a twin killing.

"We had opportunities," said Szymanski. "We talked in our post-game meeting about not putting teams away when we should, and that was the case today."

The Skipjacks seemed to break the game open with a three-run third that made it 4-0. Miller had a run-scoring double, Brett Ireland (2-for-2) contributed an RBI single, and the Seahawks committed three of their four errors in that seemingly disastrous inning.

Four runs appeared likely to be enough for Brainer, who took a perfect game into the fourth and a shutout into the sixth. Cecil, however, proved to be quite resilient. The Seahawks finally broke through against Brainer in the sixth by turning two walks, two steals and an error into a run.

Brainer issued a one-out walk to Kim, who stole second, and gave a two-out free pass to Nick Hernandez. Kim then attempted a steal of third, drawing a throw from catcher Kevin Weems that got past third baseman Armiger and allowed Kim to score.

Cecil´s running game was also a big part of a two-run seventh.

Mundy pushed a leadoff bunt past Brainer for a hit. Austin flew out and McGrady grounded out, moving Mundy to second, before Scott Rothwell´s single in the hole scored Mundy to pull the Seahawks within 4-2.

Trent then bunted down the first-base line for a hit, but the Skipjacks had a chance to get Rothwell when he strayed too far past second base. A bad throw to second, however, actually allowed Rothwell to get up and go to third.

The Seahawks then put on a double steal. While Trent was out in a rundown, he stayed alive long enough for Rothwell to score and pull Cecil within 4-3.

"They bunted on us and stole some bases, and they put pressure on us," said Szymanski. "We knew that was their style of game. For whatever reason, we just couldn´t control it today."

Chesapeake had one last chance to break the game open, loading the bases in the eighth with one out. Weems, however, struck out on three pitches and Armiger lined out to right field.

The Skipjacks travel to Largo Thursday to take on winless Prince George´s Community College in a 3 p.m. contest.

"This wasn´t the last game of the year. We have to come back and get ready for PG – and we will," said Szymanski.

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