As if the wait leading up to the Class 2A state championship game wasn’t long enough, the baseball gods decided to halt it even further.
Around 3:30 p.m., while Fallston was taking infield at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, the rain hit – and it hit hard.
More than three-and-a-half hours later, the first pitch was thrown.
And about two hours and 20 minutes after that, Middletown earned its first Maryland Public Secondary Schools baseball title with an 8-0 win over the Fallston Cougars.
“This community was behind us and they’ve wanted a state title in baseball for a long time,” head coach Andy Baker said. “We had great support tonight and traveled really well. It’s a sweet (feeling).”
How It Happened
Middletown scored a bunch in the bottom of the third. Knights outfielder Jacob House singled up the middle with the Fallston infield playing on the grass – scoring two runs. Later in the inning, right fielder Luke Pryor scored from third as shortstop Robbie Houck poked one up the middle.
The Knights added two more runs in the fifth. Outfielder Andrew Wenner scored on a sacrifice fly by Houck. House, who reached on a single and advanced to second on the out attempt at third, rounded the bases after an erratic throw from Fallston catcher Kyle Hoover went into the outfield.
The Frederick County school tallied its final three runs in the sixth as it took advantage of back-to-back walks to lead off the bottom half.
Middletown’s starting pitcher, Matthew Dillard, threw a complete-game, shutout in the victory. The junior right-hander gave up six hits and struck out 11. At one point, he retired seven straight batters.
“The offensive work helped a lot,” Dillard said of his start. “Getting those runs gave me confidence and the cushion, really, to know that I had room to breathe.”
Baker added about Dillard: “For a team [Fallston] that scored 18 runs in the state semifinal game and he holds them scoreless – he was pretty dominant.”
Rain No Match For The Knights: Middletown had no problem transitioning to game mode after the rain delay that lasted more than three hours. Baker attributes that to the team’s mental toughness.
“I told them we have an advantage,” he said. “This is a mental challenge for us and going 12 innings at Marriots Ridge helped us in that situation. Our deal was just to stay loose, be relaxed and go with the flow.”
The Knights sure did stay loose. They stayed active with Fallston during the delay. A player from each team would step out of the dugout and meet behind home plate. Then a game of rock-paper-scissors would break out – best of three, of course!
Middletown’s 1-2 Punch: When Dillard escaped a jam or recorded a 1-2-3 inning, the Knights scored — simple as that.
Those scenarios played out on three different occasions, one being when both teams were knotted at zero in the third. Dillard struck out second baseman Noah Hagenston to strand runners at first and second. In the bottom half, Middletown scored three runs on five hits.
“Once we get on a roll, we keep going,” Houck said.
The Knights plated their final five runs – two in the fifth and three in the sixth – after the right-hander retired Fallston’s side in order.
“That’s how it is with these guys,” Baker said when asked about momentum. “We get a big play in the field or a shutdown inning and maybe we get a leadoff runner on and then things build from there. Our guys get real excited and they’ve done that all throughout the playoff season. It certainly has helped us.”