ROCKVILLE — The visiting Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons varsity baseball team trailed by one in the top of the seventh inning; they were down to their final out. The Rockville Rams, who had dominant pitching the whole game, possessed all the momentum.
B-CC shortstop Drew Packs came up to the plate, and on the first pitch of the at-bat, ripped a hard-hit groundball down the third baseline. Zach Alfonso burst off second base, flew around third, and came home to score standing up, tying the game.
The Barons flipped the momentum of their pitchers’ duel against the Rams in the top of the seventh, and B-CC went on to win the game in the ninth inning, 2-1 over Rockville.
“I just put it where they weren’t. My approach didn’t change at all; I was just trying to hit it hard,” B-CC shortstop Drew Packs said.
Both teams came into this game red-hot. Rockville had won eight in a row, and B-CC had won six straight.
Rockville put in the hard-throwing Matt McTighe as the starting pitcher, and B-CC chose senior Thomas Baer, who hasn’t lost a game as a starter since his sophomore year. Both pitchers settled in quickly.
McTighe struck out the side in the top of the first, and struck out two more in the top of the second.
Baer didn’t have the same strikeout numbers, but he was just as efficient. Rockville’s Lucas Ribaudo reached on a single to right-center, but was immediately eliminated as Baer forced a double play.
Rockville didn’t have another base runner until the fifth inning. Baer only threw more than 10 pitches in one inning just once out of the first five innings, including a three-pitch fourth inning.
McTighe matched Baer’s every move on the mound however, following Baer’s three-up-three-down innings with three-up-three-down innings of his own. After Alfonso reached for B-CC on a single in the top of the second, neither team had a base runner until Rockville in the bottom of the fifth.
“McTighe and Baer flat out battled…they were literally going tick-for-tack through the first seven innings,” B-CC head coach John Schmidt said.
In the fifth inning, Rockville broke the scoreless tie. Will Wheeler led off with a double, and later came in on an RBI single off the bat of Colin Gabele.
With the way McTighe was rolling, blowing his fastball past the bats of the Barons, it looked like that one run would be enough. McTighe struck out 10 batters through six-and-one-third innings.
Then he hit his pitch count, a moment that changed the game.
“He took us apart the first time through,” Mills said of McTighe.
Donovan Shekhdar relieved McTighe, and walked Sebastian Mieses (who walked four times in the game), setting up Packs’ at-bat.
Packs didn’t celebrate when he reached second base, though the Barons shortstop knew just how big that hit was. “I was very hyped, you just couldn’t see it from the stands,” Packs said jokingly.
“He was on second base, he was so far away,” B-CC right fielder Jamie Mills added with a laugh.
Packs had tied the game, and after a shutdown, one-two-three bottom of the seventh by Baer, the game headed to extra innings.
Baer continued to roll in the extra frames, though it wasn’t until the ninth that B-CC pulled ahead.
Coulson Hamblett started a rally with a pinch-hit single, and moved to second on a Mieses walk.
Mills then stepped to the plate and laced a single to right field. Hamblett flew around third, and came home to score, giving B-CC a 2-1 lead.
“I was so excited, because I knew [Baer] was dealing, and I really felt that once we took the lead it was ours,” Mills said.
In fitting fashion, Baer sat down Rockville with a three-up-three-down inning in the bottom of the ninth, and B-CC left the field with a 2-1 win.
B-CC improved to 11-5 with the win while Rockville dropped to 11-2.
Baer pitched all nine innings, allowing only five hits, giving up just one run, and striking out four.
“It’s rare that you got a guy that can go all nine innings with the pitch count rule,” Schmidt said. “The last two years he hasn’t lost, that’s the type of guy you want on the team.”
“Never, I don’t think I’ve ever thrown eight,” Baer said. Baer added that he felt this game was his best performance on the mound for B-CC.
Rockville’s pitching was just as good, but with a senior-laden B-CC team, including Baer, Packs and Mills, the Barons did enough to win, and doing so in a nine-inning game, a situation the team rarely finds itself in.
“That’s huge,” Schmidt said of having a roster filled with nine seniors. “You want good games to be played against good teams, and today we showed up and I think the seniors really had a chance to shine. With Mieses, Mills, Thomas Baer and Drew Packs…hopefully the juniors look up at the seniors, and see they’re doing whatever they can do win a game.”