Abram White was the last one to reach the dugout after trotting in from left field once the bottom of the fourth inning ended.
He had just made a jaw-dropping catch in shallow left -- full extension diving forward -- to rob Sandy Spring Post 68’s Sam Kane of a base hit.
Waiting for White outside the dugout fence was Cissel Saxon Post 41’s entire team. They all high-fived him and once the buzz died down a bit, starting pitcher Jamie Dejter said simply, “That was nasty.”
With the help of his defense and timely hitting, Dejter pitched Post 41 to the Montgomery County American Legion championship Wednesday night at Kelley Park.
In a crisp, clean and exciting championship game, Post 41 never trailed in the 5-3 victory.
“It was unbelievable,” said Dejter, a right-hander. “I felt like every time I looked back, I saw someone making a diving play or a crazy catch. It was awesome to watch all the guys perform. I think everyone really stepped up for this game.”
After losing to Post 68 on Tuesday, 12-0, Cissel Saxon secured a spot in the Maryland Senior Legion state tournament at McCurdy Field in Frederick with Wednesday’s win. Sandy Spring will compete in a play-in game Saturday at 5:30 at McCurdy Field with a chance to advance to the tournament where their first-round opponent would be… Yep, Post 41.
The two already have played six times this season, with Sandy Spring winning four meetings. Wednesday, however, Dejter’s ability to keep a dangerous lineup off-balance and Post 41’s three-run first inning proved pivotal. In three meetings between the teams in the playoffs, the club that scored first won.
“We just went right past [Tuesday’s] game. We had to come out here and show them that we weren’t going to give up. It’s just one game,” said Post 41 centerfielder Brian Alexa, who had three hits and scored a run.
Dejter threw 101 pitches (60 for strikes) over seven innings. He walked five, struck out three and allowed three runs on seven hits. In addition to White’s catch in left, Pradip Ramamurti made a pair of difficult plays at shortstop as Dejter retired Sandy Spring’s lineup in order twice Wednesday, something that only had happened once in the teams’ previous two meetings.
“You know they have a good lineup up and down. There’s no letdown,” Dejter said. “I had to pitch to contact, have them put the ball in play and let your defense handle things. They made a bunch of amazing plays.”
Sandy Spring starter Brady Hall (3 innings pitches, four runs, seven hits) struggled from the start. The hard-throwing right-hander surrendered an infield single to Alexa to open the game. Chase Hunt followed with a single to right and Brian Battaglia walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Then three consecutive batters -- Colin Cox, Abram White and Jeremy Ponafala -- recorded RBIs to put Post 68 in a 3-0 hole.
Battaglia had RBI singles in the fourth and fifth innings, both on softly-hit balls in the infield. One was a high chopper, and the other deflected off the glove of Sandy Spring reliever Kelby Spring.
“It was a good, solid game. When we came out of the gate in the first inning, I knew we were going to have a ballgame on our hands,” Post 41 coach Scott Dunlap said.
Post 68, a powerhouse in the league all season, wasn’t without its chances. Sandy Spring left nine runners on base and scored single runs in the second, third and fifth, but couldn’t break through for a big inning.
“Hats off to them, they did a great job They came out and they were the better team today, that’s for sure,” Sandy Spring coach Jeremy Hannan said.
Should Sandy Spring win Saturday, it would set up what should be another exciting matchup between this pair.
“After the game, they said they didn’t want a county plaque, they want a state championship,” Hannan said. “That’s a good mindset to have after a loss.”
Cissel Saxon Post 41 5, Sandy Spring Post 68 3
Cissel Saxon Post 41 (16-9) 300 110 0 -- 5 12 1
Sandy Spring Post 68 (21-3) 011 001 0 -- 3 7 0
WP: Jamie Dejter. LP: Brady Hall. 2B: Post 68 -- Sam Kane. Post 41 -- Brian Alexa.