ABERDEEN — The Allegany Campers, with an 11-game win streak, a region championship and a City title already in their pockets, go for the grand prize today — a state baseball championship — here at Ripken Stadium.
The West Region champion Campers (21-3) face East Region champ Cambridge-South Dorchester (16-5) at 1 o’clock in the first of three state championship games at the home of the Aberdeen Ironbirds, the Baltimore Orioles’ Class A minor league affiliate in the New York-Penn League.
Allegany and Cambridge-South Dorchester won state semifinals in convincing fashion on Tuesday in Frederick. Cambridge beat Dunbar 12-5 and Allegany took out Bohemia Manor 9-3.
Now it’s down to a one-game season for both.
Allegany is 2-0 all-time in state championship games, although it’s been a generation since the Campers have gotten this far. The head coach, Scott Bauer, was an outfielder on the Campers 2A state championship teams in 1989 and 1990, which were coached by Toby Eirich.
Cambridge is also 2-0 in state finals, having won the Class B (now 2A) crown in 1977 and the 1A championship in 2004.
Allegany hasn’t had the offense it boasts this year in a long time. And that offense will likely face its toughest test today, against Cambridge likely starter Junior Harding, a hard-throwing junior who has already committed to national power South Carolina.
With a fast ball clocked consistently in the 90s, Harding has a 7-1 record and 0.92 earned run average. In 53 1-3 innings, he has allowed only 13 hits, walked 24 and struck out 98, an average of 13 per game.
But the Campers have seven batters hitting .350 or better, and seven with an on-base percentage of .430 or higher. Cleanup hitter Carter Imes leads the team in hits, with 38, and batting average, at .447, and has 12 doubles, two homers and 28 RBIs. Leadoff man Chris Fram is hitting .443 and, having reached base 32 times without getting a hit, sports a .583 on-base percentage. He has nine doubles, six home runs, 37 runs scored and 26 RBIs.
They are followed by Colton Sivic (.427, 35 hits, 10 doubles, six home runs, 29 RBIs), Wade McGee (.425, 20 RBIs), Matt Oleksik (.404, seven doubles, 14 RBIs), Bryce Nightengale (.375, 3 home runs, 19 RBIs) and Trenton Eirich (.359, 18 RBIs).
As a team, the Campers have a .457 on-base percentage, have hit 21 home runs and scored 194 runs, an average of eight per game.
The pitching has been just as impressive. Nightengale, who will start today, is 6-1 with a 3.05 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 55 innings. Matt Oleksik, who fanned 11 in 6 1-3 innings in the semifinal win over Bo Manor, is 6-1 with a 1.06 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 50 innings. Eirich is 6-1 with a 2.23 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 44 innings.
Cambridge’s only losses were to North Caroline, which plays in today’s Class 2A final, Saint Michaels, the runner-up to Mountain Ridge last year, and Class 2A Easton and Queen Anne’s.
Brian Lindsay leads the Vikings offense with a .423 batting average and 13 RBIs, followed by freshman Michael Richardson (.362, 16 RBIs), Nick Horner (.356, 19 RBIs), and Harding (.297, 20 RBIs), who has hit the team’s only home run. Cambridge, which has only three seniors, was successful on 65 of 71 stolen base attempts heading into the state tournament.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org