Focus on Sports
Skipjacks split pivotal doubleheader with AACC

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ARNOLD – The Skipjacks and Pioneers, relative newcomers to the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference baseball title chase, each did what they had to do Saturday to stay in the championship conversation.

Chesapeake College used an eight-run fifth inning to win the opener, 9-3, but Anne Arundel Community College bounced back to claim a 3-0 win in the nightcap on the strength of Duane Herr´s five-hit shutout.

The split left Anne Arundel (18-17 overall, 12-4 league) and Chesapeake (25-13, 10-4) tied with CCBC-Catonsville (21-13, 14-4) and Montgomery College Germantown (17-7, 12-4) with four league losses, pending reporting of Germantown´s game Saturday with Harford Community College.

The doubleheader was also important to both teams´ positioning for the NJCAA Division I Region XX tournament. Both will be among the six teams competing in next month´s tournament.

"Our goal is obviously to finish the best that we can in the state and in the region," said Chesapeake head coach Frank Szymanski. "I was happy with the big inning in the first game. It got us closer to our goal (of contending for a state title). The second game we just ran into a hot pitcher."

In addition to the four teams with four league losses, four more are within two games of the leaders in the loss column. Frederick Community College (20-7, 7-5) and Allegany College of Maryland (12-15, 7-5) are both one game back of the pack in the loss column while Hagerstown Community College (18-18, 9-6) and Garrett College (18-13, 6-6) are two back in the loss column.

Chesapeake trailed 1-0 in the opener before J.T. Gregory (2-for-2, two runs) launched a fourth-inning solo homer to tie the game. The momentum turned further in the Skipjacks´ direction in the home fourth thanks to a great defensive play.

Anne Arundel´s Steve Schultz – who had doubled and moved to third on an Anthony Jackson hit – was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder by Matt Moylan. Second baseman Brad Brainer, playing in to try to cut off the run at the plate, made the thrown home and catcher Chris Cirillo applied the tag.

"It looked like it was going to be a real close game, with not a lot of runs scored, so we were playing the infield in on that play," said Szymanski. "Brad and Chris both played the play perfectly."

Chesapeake then broke the game open with its eight-run fifth inning. Brainer got things started with a leadoff walk, Eddie West (2-for-4) singled, and Bryan Woolford (3-for-4) doubled home Brainer to give the Skipjacks a 2-1 lead . Cody Holliday flew out, but Joe Ashley then walked to load the bases, leading the Pioneers to replace starting pitcher Gerard Sokolis with reliever Jessie Wigginton.

Jeremy Grove greeted Wiggington with a two-run single and Wiggington walked the next three batters to force home in two runs before balking in another. Brainer, batting for the second time in the inning, capped the rally with a two-run single.

That was plenty of offense for Chesapeake pitcher Justin Sousa, who threw a complete-game nine-hitter with six strikeouts and two walks.

"Justin was his usual self. He was very effective – threw a lot of strikes, worked quick and kept the defense in the game," said Szymanski.

"I had a little bit of jump on my fastball and I just felt comfortable throwing strikes," said Sousa. "We have an excellent defense, so I just wanted to put the ball in play."

Sousa noted the importance of the win.

"Every game´s big, but when you´re playing region games and get a win it´s real big," said Sousa. "You´ve got to beat the good teams."

The Pioneers bounced back in Game 2 thanks in large part to Herr, who struck out five and walked just one. Schultz´s two-run, third-inning homer broke a scoreless tie and Moylan´s RBI single in the sixth added an insurance run.

The Skipjacks had their chances, but grounded into a pair of double plays – including one in the second inning after Gregory and Ryan Lambert hit consecutive, one-out singles off Herr.

Kurt Bruce was the losing pitcher for the Skipjacks in Game 2.

"Kurt pitched well, but we just didn´t hit," said Szymanski.

Notes: The Skipjacks dropped a non-conference doubleheader Sunday to visiting Montgomery (Pa.) College, 7-3 and 7-4.

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