The Northwest Jaguars are the Class 4A Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state champions. Their 8-0 win over the Howard Lions on Friday night marks the program’s second title in school history.
How It Happened
Northwest got on the board in the second inning, when third baseman Nicholas Phelps scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice. An inning later, the Jaguars scored three runs on three Howard wild pitches.
Northwest starting pitcher Michael Yuille added another run in the fifth with an RBI double – he scored five batters later when outfielder Jalen Magbie-Hunter walked with the bases loaded. The Montgomery County school tallied its final two runs of the contest in the sixth thanks to three singles and a walk.
Yuille pitched six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits. Head coach Todd Varesco wasn’t surprised.
“(Yuille) is hitting his location, his off-speed is fantastic, he’s been throwing curve balls for strikes and he’s been locating his fastball,” Varesco said. “We literally stopped him at 58 pitches the other day, because we wanted to bring him back today. And it worked out. He pitched one hell of a game tonight.”
The senior right-hander struck out eight batters – four coming in his final two innings — and retired the first seven Lions he faced.
“I’ve always been that type of pitcher,” Yuille said. “I come out fiery and want to make every inning better.”
Regarding the state championship feeling, the Northwest pitcher said, “It’s unbelievable. I’m not the crying (type of) guy, and I’m really close to tears right now.”
Outfield Arm Strength: Leading 4-0 in the top of the fourth, Yuille was faced with the bases loaded and one out. Howard outfielder Craig Wiley hit a fly ball to short right field.
Outfielder Ryan Kennington tracked the ball and then threw a dart to home plate. Catcher Alex Madoo caught the ball, spun around and tagged out the runner, ending the inning.
“You got to expect the ball coming to you,” Kennington said. “All I was trying to do was throw it right through the cut. I’m fortunate to get to that ball and be able to make the throw.”
Kennington also commented on the Jaguars’ championship: “I’m just so happy to be with my family tonight. This season was a little up and down. … It was great and amazing. I’m really lost for words.”
Plate Discipline: Northwest walked 11 times against Howard – and six of those runners scored. A number of the pitches were close, and Varesco said the team has been working on its plate discipline since the beginning of the season.
Varesco is proud that his guys adjusted throughout the season.
“The beginning of the year, guys would come out and lunge at a first-pitch ball out of the zone, popping up or hitting a dinky ground ball,” he said. “Today was the best plate discipline we’ve had all season. It’s a culmination of us talking about it and them actually learning. Heck, we were going to take runs any way were going to get it today.”