Sean Wahelan messed up.
He was caught day dreaming, completely unaware of his surroundings in the most important baseball game Sandy Spring Post 68 has played this summer.
It was the sixth inning and Sandy Spring was trailing Frederick Post 11 in a tight third-round matchup of the Maryland American Legion state tournament at McCurdy Field in Frederick on Thursday night when Wahelan wandered off second base and never returned.
He was picked off so easily by FSK starter Erik Brown that all Wahelan could do was walk back into the tag.
He put both hands on his head in disbelief and jogged to the dugout.
“I was looking back at the outfielders to see where they were and I got caught sleeping,” Wahelan said. “I wasn't paying attention. My teammates stepped up and they scored some runs. They got my back.”
And the imposing first baseman had his own back as well.
Wahelan's go-ahead, bases-clearing double off Matt Myers in the top of the seventh inning blew open a once-close game and triggered an eight-run outburst in Sandy Spring's wild 15-10 victory against the host club.
“That was definitely a relief. I had been just missing it all day and I finally got a hold of one,” Wahelan said of his big hit.
The game featured four lead changes, eight errors, 25 walks, questionable calls and even a delay for someone shining a laser pointer on the players from center field.
And as much as Wahelan was a catalyst for Post 68's eight-run seventh, second baseman Zach Hester sparked the offense throughout. He went 4 for 4 with two RBI, two doubles and two runs scored.
“I was feeling it. I wanted to rear back and hit the ball. But it's not about me, it's about the team,” Hester said of Post 68, which erased deficits of 3-0 and 6-4. “We've done it many times before. Our team never gives up.”
Frederick — which played two games Thursday after winning a 9 a.m. contest against Calvert County — left the bases loaded in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings and stranded 16. FSK will play Wicomico Post 64 at 9 a.m. on Friday while Sandy Spring will play Columbia Post 300 at 1 p.m. FSK must win to remain alive, while Post 68 is the only undefeated team in the double-elimination tournament at 3-0.
“I think in the end, we weren't patient when [Post 68's pitchers] were struggling,” said Post 11 coach Tom Long. “It's just a shame. If we're patient at the plate, we've got a good chance to win.”
Both Brown and Post 68 starter Brady Hall were solid through five innings, but neither made it through the sixth. Sandy Spring tagged Brown for three runs in the sixth and FSK then knocked Hall out of the game with a three-spot of its own to give Post 11 a 6-4 lead. The big hit never came after that.
FSK managed only five hits on a night where one or two more could have changed the outcome. Sandy Spring's pitchers walked 17 batters and its defense committed five errors.
“They're playing baseball very well right now as a team. One person makes a mistake, another person picks them up,” Post 68 assistant coach Matt Cangas said.
Hall was relieved by left-hander Kelby Spring, who pitched five innings Tuesday and also warmed up twice after two lightning delays. He appeared exhausted, but labored through three shaky innings, the big moment coming in the bottom of the seventh when he induced an inning-ending popout by Brian Smith with the bases loaded.
Spring threw 87 pitches Tuesday against Cissel Saxon and added 88 more (36 strikes) Thursday for a total of 175 in three days. He was one out away from finishing the game in the ninth, but couldn't throw a strike. Spring walked 10 batters to Hall's seven as Evan Snyder recorded the final out of the game.
From pristine one-hitter Wednesday to an eventful slop fest Thursday, Sandy Spring is finding a way.
“I'm pretty confident that we are the best team and we definitely have the talent to prove it,” Hester said.
Sandy Spring Post 68 15, Frederick FSK Post 11 10
Sandy Spring Post 68 (3-0) 000 013 803 — 15 14 5
Frederick FSK Post 11 (2-1) 300 003 202 — 10 5 3
WP: Kelby Spring LP: Nick Baker 2B: Post 68 — Joe Coleman, Zach Hester (2), Sean Wahelan. Post 11 — Matt Myers. 3B: Post 11 -- Ian Foland.