Thomas Johnson starting pitcher Devon Coldren induced a routine fly ball to center field.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth inning, that’s just what Coldren needed to escape the jam unscathed and keep the Patriots in position to avenge their lone loss of the season to Urbana.
But TJ’s outfielder had trouble tracking the ball and couldn’t make the catch. Three runs scored.
Coming into a game involving Frederick County’s top teams — the Patriots and Hawks had a combined three losses before the first pitch was thrown in Friday’s regular-season finale — such a play seemed like an aberration. Unfortunately for either team, it wasn’t.
Urbana and TJ both made more costly mistakes throughout the game, which the visiting Hawks held on to win 12-10.
Whether those mistakes were outright errors or miscues, they would’ve been undesirable for any team at any point in the season, let alone a pair of strong programs ready to embark on what they hope will be deep postseason runs. Earlier on Friday, both the Patriots and Hawks earned No. 1 seeds in their respective playoff brackets.
Even though the Hawks (11-2) had just knocked off TJ (9-2) for the second time this season — no other team has beaten the Patriots this season — Urbana coach Mike Frownfelter knew this was far from his team’s finest game.
Urbana errors in the sixth and seventh innings contributed to TJ rallies that made the Hawks sweat things out. After TJ scored once in the seventh and had the bases loaded with one out, Hawks reliever Joey Galloway preserved the win with a strikeout and game-ending fly out to the third baseman.
“Defensively, we weren’t good, pitching, we weren’t good, and offensively, we weren’t as good,” Frownfelter said. “We weren’t as crisp as I wanted to be going into the playoffs.”
Perhaps already locking up a No. 1 seed in the playoffs diminished competitive drive. Also, Urbana’s seniors graduated the previous day and participated in a Safe and Sane activity that night.
“A lot of those seniors were up late, and we looked like it,” Frownfelter said. “We got the win, we played ugly. I just told them, hopefully, let’s get that bad game out of the way and let’s focus on Wednesday when we play the winner of Quince Orchard and Richard Montgomery.”
He was referring Urbana’s first postseason game in the Class 4A West, Region II playoffs. Likewise, TJ will play the Frederick-Tuscarora winner in the Class 3A West, Region I playoffs, and the Patriots hope the woes that surfaced Friday are long gone by then.
“Ugliest display of defense I’ve probably ever been a part of on this field,” TJ coach Billy Gross said. “I think 11 total errors by us today.”
Aside from the aforementioned fly ball that fell in and plated three runs in the top of the fourth, another fly ball that inning fell between two outfielders in right-center, allowing Urbana to score a run that tied that game at 5
“We can’t track a fly ball, plain and simple,” Gross said. “That’s momentum-killing.”
The Patriots took a 5-1 lead into the fourth. Five runs seemed like more than enough for Coldren, who threw a pair of complete-game shutouts in late May. Heck, Coldren, who hadn’t batted this season before Friday, even hit a two-run double in the third.
“Devon’s throwing like he has been throwing,” Gross said. “He gets himself in a little bit of a jam, bases loaded with two outs. Gets a routine fly ball to center field, and we can’t catch the ball.”
Such breaks were the last thing the Patriots wanted to give to a team like the Hawks, whose two losses this season were both 2-1 setbacks to Linganore.
“We fought, I mean, I’ll give credit to my guys to keep fighting back,” Gross said. “But every time we fought back, we gave a little bit more.”
Junior Brendan Yagesh helped the Hawks retain their lead. He led off off the fifth with a triple, hitting a hard-hit liner that the outfielder had trouble tracking down in deep right-center. That started another five-run rally, which included Julian Samonte’s two-run double and RBI basehits by Riley Smith, Layton Wenk and Luke Boyd.
Yagesh followed with another leadoff triple in the sixth. That started a two-run rally, with one run scoring on an error and the other on Smith’s single to right field.
Yagesh finished with three hits, including a double in the first inning. Reliever Nate Dacen, who entered with one on and no outs in the fifth, worked two-plus innings.
“It was a rough one,” Yagesh said. “But the outcome was good. That’s all that matters.”