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Friday, January 27, 2023

Shore Closes Out Season with Rout of Norfolk, One-Run Loss to Del State

Hawks Win First MEAC Tournament Game Since 2012

NORFOLK, VIRGINIA – On the hottest weekend of the year so far, the Maryland Eastern Shore baseball team was hoping to heat up and show that they were the best team in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference on Friday (May 20) in Norfolk, Virginia. After battling sweltering heat in a game one rout of Norfolk State University 12-5, the Hawks had to battle back against Delaware State University but fell just short of advancing to championship Saturday, falling 11-10 to the Hornets.

“Today was a long day,” head coach Brian Hollamon said. “It was hot and to play back-to-back and to put themselves in a position to win with a man on third and two outs, tying run at third, that’s good stuff.”

In the dead cold of the preseason the Hawks garnered little to no respect around the MEAC, garnering few preseason accolades, and were expected to be the easy win all season long – with their efforts on Thursday (May 19) and Friday, the Shore proved many wrong by playing the top two seeds within a run and showing that Shore baseball is here to compete.

Despite the loss to close out the season, the Hawks (17-37) hit many high marks including the most wins since 2006 when the Shore went 17-34-1, the first conference tournament win since 2012, having more than 14 student-athletes on the MEAC All-Academic list and having a program high five student-athletes being named on the All-MEAC list.

“I put in a lot of time and effort to teach, teach them about baseball, teach them about life,” Hollamon said.

Game One

Two early runs were picked up by Norfolk as Dionte Brown reached on a single and Raphy Rodriguez on catcher’s interference before Jacob Council loaded the bases with a single. The Spartans then took advantage of an error by Andrew Revels to help plate two when Tanner Brandon singled, making things look bleak early for the Hawks. Starter Cameron Bratton responded with a strikeout and forced a flyout to Derek Mayes II.

It took no time for the Hawks to get things going themselves by loading the bases with three straight walks to start the bottom of the inning and Ryan Howe hit a sacrifice fly to left field to get the Shore its first run of the day. Brantley Cutler then promptly hit a single to load the bases again and big man Alex McCoy then lifted one to right field for a sacrifice fly himself to tie the game up.

Nick Roets showed patience in his at-bat, drawing a ten pitch walk to put two on and Mayes swung on the first pitch to drive in both runners, doubling up the score on Norfolk.

The Shore kept taking advantage of Spartan mistakes in the bottom of the second, as Brian Cordell singled, stole second and reached third on a Dillon Oxyer groundout. Norfolk then committed its first of seven errors in the game as Howe rumbled to first for a single and reached second on a bad throw, plating Cordell. Howe moved to third and Cutler walked, putting runners on the corners for McCoy who forced a bad throw to first with his speed getting Howe home for the Hawks sixth run.

More of the same went on in the third when Mayes led off with a double and Jason Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt but made it all the way to second due to an error on the throw with Mayes reaching home. Andrew Revels put a perfect bunt down the third base to put runners on the corners and Cordell reaching on a bunt drove the Hawk’s eighth run of the game across.

Keeping with the theme, Cutler hit a single to lead off the fourth and McCoy walked – Roets went to bunt them both over but ended up seeing them both score when the throw went past the first baseman, putting the Hawks up 10-2.

“In the first game we played a lot of small balls,” Hollamon said. “We didn’t make mistakes and they did, and it helped us win the ballgame.”

Norfolk was able to grab one back in the top of the fifth with a leadoff single by Brandon Cleveland and was eventually driven in by Jacob Council. It was no worry for the Hawks, grabbing two in the bottom of the inning as Cordell scored on a fielder’s choice and Howe, who hit the fielder’s choice, scored on a wild pitch.

Norfolk was able to scatter two more runs in the game, one in the sixth and the other in the eighth, but Bratton stayed strong despite the over 90-degree heat to go the distance – his third time pitching a complete game against the Spartans – giving the Hawks another game in the elimination bracket just thirty minutes later against Delaware State.

Game Two

With just thirty minutes to refuel and rest, the Hawks got back into action against Delaware State, the top seed in the tournament. Leading off, Revels reached on an error by Hornet’s shortstop Trey Paige and took off for second during Cordell’s at-bat for a stolen base, advancing to third when his centerfielder grounded out to the pitcher. Oxyer came up and although he grounded out on a 2-2 pitch, it drove in Revels to score the first run of the game.

During the Hornet’s half of the inning, the leadoff man also reached, this time on a walk by Hawks starter Derrick Rabb Jr. and stole second like Revels. Paige redeemed himself of his error by hitting a single to tie the game up and eventually was driven in by a double from Alec Rodrigues to put the Hawks in a one-run hole.

Scoring was quiet in the second, but Oxyer was able to make things happen in the third after Cordell took a pitch for the team, as Oxyer knocked a shot over the head of Del State’s centerfielder for a triple to score Cordell. On the relay in an attempt to get Oxyer out at third, Paige committed his second error of the game by throwing wide, placing Oxyer at home, and giving the Hawks a lead.

Hornets starter Jordan Haddaway was replaced by Mike Carrington after the debacle and got the one-seed out of the jam.

Rabb ran into trouble in the third as well though, giving up a three-run homer to put the Hawks down 5-3 just three batters in to the inning.

“We gave up a few home runs in the second game against Del State that hurt us,” Hollamon said.

A wild pitch by Del State in the top of the fourth led to another two runs as Kyle Cincinnati hit a single to his spot in right-center and Mayes drove a double down the right-field line, with the wild pitch scoring Cincinnati and putting Mayes in scoring position. Revels was the one to knot it up with a sacrifice fly to center, putting Mayes across the plate.

Things got away from the Shore in the fifth inning after a leadoff walk and then a throwing error on a pickoff throw put Alan Alonso on third, not for it to matter as Rodrigues hit one over the right-field wall for two runs. On a two-out swing, Miguel Rivera drove in a runner from second and Paige had his second RBI on a single up the middle, making it a 9-5 game in favor of the Hornets.

The Hawks loaded the bases in the top of the sixth and got one run off a Cordell walk with two outs, highlighted in the sequence by a perfect Revels bunt before Cordell’s bunt. It was almost a tie game when Oxyer squared up and hit a long fly ball to dead center that was underplayed, only for the speed and glove of Hornets centerfielder Mike Worthington to find the hit, ending the threat.

Del State struck again in the bottom of the frame on a single up the middle, scoring two, putting the Hawks down by five runs. Neither side got much going in the next two innings, making the game look all but done and out of reach for the Shore.

Even if it looked like the Hawks were done, they showed all the resistance they could when the last call happened in the top of the ninth. Howe led things off with a first-pitch swing that put the ball in the left-field corner for a double and Jason Brown, who came in earlier as a pinch-runner, was hit by a pitch to put two on and force the Hornets to bring in closer CJ Loper.

Loper proved himself to be a bit wild quickly, throwing a wild pitch in the dirt that put runners on second and third. In what would be Roets’ final collegiate at-bat, he ripped a shot through the left side, scoring Howe and giving some hope to the Shore. Roets then stole his first base since 2019 to put runners in scoring position before Bryan Widdowson walked to load the bases.

In an absolute wild sequence, the Hawks got the game within a run making it look like the miracle comeback was in full effect. Revels reached all the way to second on a fielding error by Hornets first baseman Krew Bouldin, in effect getting Widdowson and Roets across the plate to have the Hawks down by just two. A spike in the dirt by Loper then scored Widdowson from third to cut the Hornet lead to just one.

“We got fight like nobody’s business,” Hollamon said.

That would be it though for the game and the Hawks’s best season since 2006, as a strikeout would end it for the spring, leaving the Shore down by a single run and advancing Del State to the final round.

With the end of the season, there will be Hawks looking towards the future, whether it be on the diamond, continuing education or beginning their life post-Maryland Eastern Shore.

“As a coach, it’s my pleasure to coach these guys and more importantly see them off,” Hollamon said. “To hopefully teach these guys how to do things the right way, that’s what’s more important to me.”

For more information on Eastern Shore Athletics visit http://www.easternshorehawks.com/.

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