Northwest rallies for season-opening win by James Peters Staff writer
With the host Winston Churchill High School baseball team holding a 2-1 lead heading into the top of the sixth inning of Thursday’s season opener with Northwest, someone in the Jaguars dugout uttered the following: “We’ve been in this position before, a one-run game.”
Northwest, in fact, faced and overcame numerous deficits a year ago, including in the Class 4A championship game, to capture the program’s first state title and that trend continued again against the Bulldogs with the Jaguars scoring six unanswered runs in the final two innings for a 7-2 victory, the team’s seventh straight dating back to last spring’s incredible six-game postseason run.
“We have a mentality as a team to never give up,” said Northwest pitcher-second baseman J.J. Jan, who allowed a pair of unearned runs in four innings of work on the mound while also belting a run-scoring double in the team’s three-run seventh inning to help put the game way for the Jaguars. “We always have each others’ backs. Even when we’re down, we have our heads up and we never give up.”
Taking a page out of last year’s, 7-6, 12-inning 4A state championship win against Arundel — the Jaguars rallied twice for that victory — Northwest capitalized on some Churchill miscues, some timely hits and strong relief pitching from Brian Rourke to avert a mild upset by the youthful Bulldogs.
“Offensively, we kind of just stalled,” Churchill coach Scott Blackwood said. “Their guy who came in did a great job keeping us off balance. We let him off the hook quite a bit though, swinging at pitches out of the zone. That’s just a true testament to their team, a championship team, defending state champions; they don’t buckle under pressure.
“We had a chance to beat them, but we couldn’t stay relaxed. We got too tight and when you put two guys on in the sixth inning and expect them not to score, it’s not going to happen. We couldn’t stay composed. The pressure got to us.”
Jan and Rourke were those two Jaguars to reach base with no outs in the top of the sixth on a walk and a single, respectively. Jan scored on Rourke’s single that was bobbled in right field, allowing Jan to reach home for a 2-2 tie. Northwest then took the lead on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly by Ryan Teachum for a 4-2 advantage.
The Jaguars struck for three more in the top of the seventh on run-scoring doubles by Jan and Shannon and a sacrifice fly by Brennan Karn for the final five-run lead. Jan stroked his shot to left field while Shannon’s tipped just off the glove of Churchill’s right fielder and into foul territory.
“It was a change-up, inside,” Jan said. “I saw it inside and ripped it.”
While the Northwest offense awoke from its slumber in the late innings, Churchill’s bats grew largely silent against Rourke, who struck out three and allowed three hits in three scoreless relief innings.
“We do pretty darn well when we come from behind,” said Rourke, who missed all of last season following Tommy John, or ligament replacement, surgery on his right pitching arm. “Kind of a slow start … but we came back.”
Churchill starter Eric Brodkowitz struck out seven and allowed an unearned run in five innings of work.
Northwest 7, Winston Churchill 2
Northwest (1-0) 0 1 0 0 0 3 3 – 7 4 2
Winston Churchill (0-1) 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 2 3 4
WP – Brian Rourke (1-0). LP – Matt Albers (0-1). 2B: NW – Scott Ardoin, J.J. Jan, Michael Shannon. WC – Matt Castelli, Zach Thibodeau. RBI: NW – J.J. Jan, Michael Shannon, Ryan Teachum, Brennan Karn.
Gaithersburg 16, Watkins Mill 0
The first day of the Montgomery County public school baseball’s regular season included a number of lopsided scores, including Gaithersburg High School baseball’s 16-0 victory against Watkins Mill Thursday. The Trojans scored all 16 runs in the first three innings, including seven in the second.
Brendan Deyo struck out seven and allowed a lone hit for the victory on the mound. Offensively, Evan Colon doubled and knocked in a trio of runs as did Corey Scholl, who had a triple. J.P. Herbert had two hits, a double and three runs batted in.
In other action, Quince Orchard upended Walter Johnson, 19-3; Bethesda-Chevy Chase handed Paint Branch, a 10-0, defeat in six innings and Poolesville cruised past Walt Whitman, 11-6.