After surrendering three runs and a one-run lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Middletown High School baseball team erupted for six runs in the top of fifth and held off a comeback bid by second-seeded Catoctin en route to an 11-5 win in a 2A West Region quarterfinal contest on Tuesday at Frederick High School.
The Knights move on and will visit Century on Wednesday in a regional semifinal game. Century upset third-seeded Walkersville, 6-5, in another quarterfinal game on Tuesday.
“Our kids battled. They've battled all year,” said Middletown coach Andy Baker. “They battled against some really good pitchers. It's probably the best we've played all year.”
Leading 1-0 following a run-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of Matt Machak, the Knights surrendered three runs to the Cougars (15-6) on a run-scoring single by John Carroll, a run-scoring double by Mark Smith and a suicide squeeze bunt from Alex Kennedy.
Middletown came right back with those six runs in the fifth on four hits, three walks and an error for a 7-3 advantage. Austin Klingensmith blasted a two-run double and Connor Myers belted a two-run single to fuel the rally.
“After that they had a rally themselves, we knew we had to do the same thing,” Klingensmith said. “We got runners on early. We had a two-strike approach early in the game and it finally connected and we just put a rally together. The bench helped us and we scored runs.
“Liberty [the No. 1 seed] lost and Century lost. That's big because we lost to both of them so now the road is open and [the regional title is] ours to take.”
Middletown's lead was trimmed to 7-5 going into the seventh inning but the Knights produced four more runs on three hits in the top half of the inning. Myers had an RBI single, Collin Delauter smacked a two-run single to help push the lead to 11-5.
Catoctin, which last won a region title in 2009, loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Middletown reliever Colson Kirchner recorded his third strikeout of the inning, getting Evan Lambert to end the game. The missed opportunity was one of many for the Cougars, who stranded 10 runners in the game.
“They outhit us and outpitched us and played better defense,” said Catoctin coach Mike Franklin. “They deserved to win. They played better. This was uncharacteristic of us. We've pitched very well this season. We didn't pitch well. We'll get them next year, I guess.”
Middletown 11, Catoctin 5
Middletown (17-6) 0 0 0 1 6 0 4 — 11 10 3
Catoctin (15-6) 0 0 0 3 1 1 0 — 5 10 3
WP — Austin Main. LP — Alex Kennedy. 2B: Middletown — Jack Panther, Austin Klingensmith; Catoctin — Garrett Sprankle, Mark Smith. RBI: Middletown — Connor Myers 3, Collin Delauter 2, Austin Klingensmith 2, Matt Machak, Jack Panther, Brooks Warrenfeltz; Catoctin — Andrew Weaver 2, John Carroll, Mark Smith, Alex Kennedy.