As Hagerstown Community College walked onto the field after the final out on Thursday, there was a big sigh of relief.
The Hawks used a three-run seventh inning and stellar pitching out of the bullpen to defeat Allegany College of Maryland, 3-1, in their Maryland JUCO opener.
"We manufactured three runs and that's all it took," said Hawks coach Scott Jennings. "After using the double steal in the seventh, that kind of got the ball rolling for us and we were able to score some runs and win the game. Sometimes that's all it takes."
During the seventh inning rally, HCC (11-3, 1-0) perfectly executed the "leave-early" play to steal a run.
Jennings lifted Lynch — now at second base — in favor of pinch runner Drew Carline (Spring Mills), who proceeded to swipe third base giving the Hawks runners on the corners.
At that point, Jennings knew exactly what play to call.
Before Trojans starter Ryan Mowry delivered a 1-2 pitch to Robbie Houck, Martin took off for second base. Mowry stepped off and the Trojans caught Martin in a rundown. Meanwhile, Carline broke for the plate and slid under the tag, stealing home and tying the score.
"The object of the play is to get in a rundown. Spencer did a great job executing it and Carline avoided the tag at home," Jennings said. "With the way we were swinging it today, I figured it was time to make something happen so we rolled the dice and it worked for us."
Houck followed with an infield single to short. Four pitches later, Nate Cotton hit a sharp groundball to third. The ball was misplayed and thrown past the first baseman allowing Martin and Houck to score, making it 3-1.
With a two-run lead, it was up to the bullpen to close it out. Ryan Greene, the 2018 Herald-Mail pitcher of the year at Williamsport, fired a 10-pitch scoreless top of the eighth before turning it over to Dylan Reid to close it out.
Allegany (0-4, 0-2) threatened by loading the bases in the ninth following an error, a single, and a hit batter, but Reid buckled down and got a strikeout and a groundout to cap the win and earn the save.
Before the three-run seventh, the Hawks and Trojans were locked in a pitchers duel. HCC starter Brock Smith (Boonsboro) ran into trouble early. In each of the first two innings, Allegany put a runner in scoring position via walks, but Smith escaped the jams.
Smith found himself in danger again in the top of the fourth. Garrett Pullium reached base after being hit by a pitch, then back-to-back wild pitches moved him to third. A groundout to short by Joey Bodmer was enough for Pullium to score the first run of the game.
In the fifth inning, Smith escaped a jam with the help of a sensational diving catch of a bunt by first baseman Lynch.
On the other side, Mowry was strong in his first start at the collegiate level for Allegany. Mowry pitched his way out of a bases loaded jam in the third inning and shut out the Hawks offensively. The only player to give Mowry trouble was Josh Menders, who reached base four times including three hits and a walk.
"I was comfortable at the plate today because Schanz (HCC hitting coach Eric Schanzenbacher) has been working with me and has me feeling good in the box," Menders said. "It's better to score runs early and work with a lead but we have a team that doesn't quit and that's a good mentality to have."
HCC turned the game over to the bullpen after getting six innings out of Smith. Steven Ricketts (South Hagerstown) fired an eight-pitch top of the seventh and became the winning pitcher after the Hawks rallied.