GAITHERSBURG – The sun came out Monday afternoon just in time to watch the top-seeded Gaithersburg varsity baseball team swing past Damascus in their final home game of the season, 3-1.
The defending state champion Trojans (18-1) celebrated Senior Night by holding the Hornets to just one run, even as Damascus had the bases loaded at the top of the seventh inning. Monday’s game marked Gaithersburg’s 75th victory in four years.
“These seniors have won four divisions, two regions and a state championship,” said Trojans head coach Jeff Rabberman. “They’ve accomplished a lot and they have a lot to be proud of.”
Damascus (12-5) knotted the game at one run apiece at the top of the third. Senior left fielder Aaron Mettus slid on his chest into home to grab the Hornets’ sole run of the game.
Gaithersburg lefty pitcher Brad Sawyer threw strikeout after strikeout. Senior Maryland commit Nick Pantos and senior James Mabry each had a run at the bottom of the fifth.
Damascus senior third baseman Elliott Brown came up to bat at the top of the seventh as the Hornets in the dugout shouted their encouragement. The bases were loaded; Damascus could grab the victory and hand the Trojans a loss in their final regular season game.
It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Brown struck out to end the game.
The Hornets earned the third seed in the playoffs with Monday’s loss and Poolesville’s victory against Churchill. Poolesville will be the second seed. Damascus will kick off the playoffs on Friday.
Hornets head coach Greg Blake said Gaithersburg was a good test for the playoffs.
“We expect to be in it for the long haul,” he said. “We have really strong senior leadership and they knew this was going to be a tough game.”
Blake said he doesn’t think Monday’s loss will affect his team going into the postseason.
“We came in here believing we could win,” he said. “We’ve been playing really well as of late. I’m really proud of how the guys fought all game long.”
As the first seed, the Trojans will get time to rest up and prepare for their next game. Rabberman said his team knows what is expected of them as they head into the playoffs.
“We just have to go and play our game. If we play Gaithersburg baseball, we are going to be really successful,” he said.
Rabberman said he believes there is less pressure to repeat as state champions than most people would imagine.
“I feel like there would have been a lot more pressure if we didn’t, because then it would have been left up to this year to finally get it done,” he said. “We were very fortunate to do it last year, and hopefully now we can put it together one game at a time and do it again.”