ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Before the Maryland AAU championship game South River coach Bryan Shores said he wanted his team to approach it like just another game. They did much more.
The Seahawks staved off a furious comeback attempt from Maryland RBI to win the Maryland AAU Baseball tournament championship game July 2 at South River High School. The victory earns the Seahawks their first Maryland AAU title after an exciting marathon ride through the 2016 Maryland AAU Wood Bat Baseball League season and tournament.
South River capitalized on Maryland RBI errors on the same play exploding for 6 runs in the fifth inning, as the Seahawks defeated Maryland RBI 9-5 in the Maryland AAU finals on Saturday. The misplay, which scored three unearned runs, broke open what had been a nail biter with Maryland RBI relentlessly threatening but not scoring.
After a scoreless first and second by both teams, South River scored first in the third going up 3-0 when it scored three runs on two singles. The lead stayed with the Seahawks after the third.
Maryland RBI (9-6 AAU, 11-7 overall) was trying for its fourth Maryland AAU title since 2012.
“Bryan has been coaching forever and South River earned it,” Maryland RBI manager Mike Graham said of Shores. “He and his coaches did a great job getting to the championship by knocking off Southern Maryland Elite.
“South River and Maryland RBI split during the season and most assumed Southern Maryland Elite out of Leonardtown/St. Mary’s County, would be the team to beat, but South River took them out and caught fire and played very well—focused, steady and solid at all the right times.
“We anticipated our experience was an advantage,” Graham said of Maryland RBI vs South River, “so we wanted to pressure [South River] in all phases—defensively in the field, on the bases, show them different looks, take chances and try to make things happen.
“We did get them on their heels at various times and they bent, but we just couldn’t break them. After the third, we were chasing. They are a tough bunch of kids. It was an exciting game and our coaching staff was very pleased how our guys rallied and battled to the last out. It was exciting.”
Shores and Graham laughed at the size of the crowd that turned out for the game. Over a hundred filled the South River HS field’s bleachers and fence lines.
Brad Marceron got the win for South River. He struck out four, walked two and surrendered five hits, allowing five runs over 5 2/3 innings.
South River was sparked by Nick Moskios and Eric Sieber, who teamed up for five hits and five RBIs. Sieber was named the Most Outstanding Player for South River.
The Seahawks couldn’t get anything going while Blake Thrasher was on the bump in relief for Maryland RBI. Thrasher held South River hitless over one inning, allowed no earned runs, walked none and struck out two.
South River built upon its lead with six runs in the fifth. The inning got off to a hot start when Moskios singled, scoring Marceron. That was followed up by Bryce Lerner’s RBI single.
After pushing across five runs in the top of the sixth, Maryland RBI faced just a 9-5 deficit. A two-run double by Mac McGrath fueled Maryland RBI’s comeback. “Mac plays like lightning in a bottle,” Graham said. “It’s open that bottle and watch out.”
An RBI double by Billy Albaugh followed—“Huge, timely and desperately needed,” Graham said—then a bases loaded walk by Micheas Yimam and a walk by Jeff Johnson. Finally, Sieber in relief put out the fire for South River with an inning-ending strikeout.
Graham said, “Our large senior class, winter workout program, the guys playing college and high school ball in the spring, the contributions of guys who don’t show up much, it all factors. It was a full on team effort, and just getting to the championship at this level is an achievement. It really comes down to there’s no easy road to a ‘ship in ‘the U’—playing in the Amateur Athletic Union is an honor and privilege.”
The championship game was originally set to be played at Riva Area Park at noon on Saturday, but a bad thunderstorm the night before flooded that field. With the threat of more rain Sunday, and with an AAU 18+ summer collegiate/amateur tournament scheduled at Riva, the most important Maryland AAU Baseball game of the year went off at 6 p.m. at South River HS.
“Bryan and his coaching staff did an amazing job to get South River’s field ready,” Graham said. “They dug drainage pits and pumped a hundred gallons of water off the field and applied who knows how much Field Dry pellets to get it ready for play. The field was perfect, mowed and looked great. No other program could do that, and it’s a credit to the Seahawks organization. As far as I am concerned, that alone was an AAU Coaching Staff of the Year performance.”
Much of the game was a pitchers’ duel to see which team’s arms would fade first. Maryland RBI built up repeated threats throughout the game, but only the explosion in the fifth produced runs.
Yimam was named the Most Outstanding Player for Maryland RBI.
“Ask any pro and college coach or scout and they will tell you wood bat is where it’s at for player development,” Graham said, “and this league is a lot better than people give it credit for. All but one of the 10 teams playing 19U and 18+ could beat each other on any given day. That made the league this year a flat out grinder, which makes South River’s championship all the more impressive. We salute them.”