ABERDEEN — With fireballing ace Junior Harding on the mound the Cambridge-South Dorchester Vikings didn’t need any help.
But Allegany gave them a good bit anyway by allowing four unearned runs in the first inning and the Campers never recovered in a 15-0 loss in the Class 1A state championship game at Ripken Stadium.
Harding, just a junior but already committed to NCAA power South Carolina, also did it with his bat with a double, triple, three RBIs and two runs scored in leading Cambridge (17-5) to its third state championship.
The right-hander’s first pitch to Allegany leadoff man Chris Fram was clocked at 94 mph, according to the stadium scoreboard, and Harding hit 95 on a pitch to Wade McGee, one batter later. He threw 81 pitches in the six-inning game, with 34 of his fastballs reaching 90 mph or better, allowed three singles, walked one and struck out nine. Only four balls were hit out of the infield.
“We told our guys after beating Bo Manor in the semifinals on Tuesday that we’d be facing a kid that throws hard. We worked on some things, like making sure we got our front foot down, keeping our weight back and going to the opposite field,’’ said Allegany coach Scott Bauer.
“We worked hard and had good days of practice, but we hadn’t seen that kind of speed all year long. Still, we felt like we could get some runs.”
The game couldn’t have started any worse for the Campers (21-4), who had an 11-game winning streak snapped. The first batter was safe on an infield error, and the second reached on a high throw to first on a sacrifice bunt. After seven batters there were one out, two errors, three hits and four runs, all unearned. Harding had the big hit, an RBI triple.
“The first inning wasn’t indicative of how we’ve been playing all year,’’ Bauer said. “We’ve been solid defensively, maybe not making spectacular plays but we made the basic ones, and we start the game with two errors and they score four unearned runs.
“We knew runs were going to be hard to get today and we never recovered from being down 4-0. We didn’t recover from the first inning. It kind of knocked the air out of us.”
Harding struck out the side in the bottom of the first, and Allegany starter Bryce Nightengale pitched scoreless second and third innings, with an inning-ending double play in the third, to keep it at 4-0.
“We still thought we were okay,” Bauer said. “We thought we could get four or five runs, but they got a couple more in the fourth and it just snowballed on us. It got out of hand.”
In the fourth, Matt Elliott doubled and scored on a single by Michael Richardson, and Harding hit a two-run double to make it 7-0. The snowball hit full steam in a difficult sixth inning for Allegany, as the Vikings sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on seven hits.
Trenton Eirich singled to center in the third inning, Nightengale singled to right in the fourth and Colton Sivic singled to left in the sixth to account for Allegany’s hits. The only other baserunners were Dylan Shockey, who reached on an infield error in the third, and Chris Fram, who walked in the sixth.
One game, however, doesn’t overshadow what the Campers accomplished this year, Bauer said. “I’m proud of these kids. This year, we’ve pitched well, we’ve played good, basic defense and we hit the ball well.
“It was uncharacteristic of us to play this way today. It’s sad that it happened here but I’m proud of them. I feel bad for them because we’re better than that, and I feel bad for them because I like them so much because they work so hard. That’s all I ever ask kids to do: work hard and give us all you have at practice.
“We have great kids who work hard and great assistant coaches who work hard. I just felt that’s not us that showed up here today. We had a great year, and we’re headed in the right direction.”
Harding finished the year with an 8-1 record, an 0.83 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 59 1-3 innings. It was the first shutout loss for Allegany since a 13-0 game against Northern last year, a span of 40 games.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org