ABERDEEN — Howard High School couldn’t have scripted a better way to win its first state championship. After falling to Northwest in the Class 4A Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state finals a season ago, the Lions rallied from three runs down in their final at-bat Friday night against Severna Park to complete a year-long redemption story.
How It Happened
Junior Ryan Kulick, the hero for the 2018 state champion Lions, may not remember everything – he said he nearly blacked out after delivering his two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh for Howard’s 5-4, walkoff title win – but we’ll piece it together for you (and him).
Howard got on the board in the first inning, when first baseman Matt Flynn lined a single to left-center to score Brian Jakubek for a 1-0 Lions’ lead.
Starting pitchers Gabe Delgado (Howard) and Cameron Clark (Severna Park) battled over the course of the middle innings, shutting down the opposing offenses.
In the bottom of the fourth, Howard second baseman Alex Campbell lined a ball up the middle. Clark extended with his pitching hand, deflecting the ball towards shortstop Nick Horgan. Horgan slid and jumped to his feet, delivering a hard throw to first to record the final out of the inning.
Severna Park first baseman Luke Guy turned momentum the Falcons’ way in the top of the sixth. Guy lined a double into the left field corner, scoring two runs. The throw from left fielder Aidan O’Connor beat the potential, go-ahead runner by a couple of feet, but the ball was jarred loose from the catcher’s mitt for a 2-1, Falcons’ lead.
In the top of the seventh, Severna Park went up 4-1 as Kody Milton and Brendan Simonds delivered a pair of RBI singles. However, the Falcons failed to pad their lead after having runners on second and third with no outs.
On the verge of another championship defeat, Howard’s first two batters reached in the bottom of the seventh. Clark struck out two Lions before being lifted with two outs and three on.
A bases-loaded walk and a passed ball clipped Severna Park’s lead to 4-3
Then, down to his last strike, Kulick smacked a two-run single to center to deliver Howard’s first state title and a stunning, 5-4 victory.
“When I got to first, I felt like I blacked out,” Kulick said. “I had no idea what was going on. We wanted to send the seniors off with something great, and this is the best thing we can send them out on.”
“It’s a storybook ending for our seniors – Jake Alagna, Matt Flynn, Craig Wiley – to come up here, back-to-back years, and to win it (as seniors). I told them, ‘Boys, that’s the way to go out right there,’” said Howard head coach Nick Hoffner.
“It’s great,” Delgado said. “And our goal again next year is to be right back here.”
Despite being on the losing side, Clark dazzled on the mound for Severna Park. The senior struck out 11 over 6 2/3 innings. He came one batter short of a complete game and, potentially, a state championship.