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Tigers edge Raiders in battle of area baseball heavyweights

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Shenandoah’s Landon Freestone (right) bats against host Hagerstown during Thursday evening’s baseball game. Freestone was batting .565 entering the contest, the the Tigers edged the visiting Raiders 4-3.
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Hagerstown’s Brady McMillan was the winning pitcher in the Tigers’ 4-3 victory over visiting Shenandoah Thursday evening. McMillan boosted his record to 3-0 for the season and 12-0 for his career.

By DAN HARNEY - For the Courier-Times

HAGERSTOWN—Two of the area’s best Class 2A baseball programs clashed Thursday evening at Lloyd Michael Field.

Mid-Eastern Conference co-leader Shenandoah brought a potent line-up that includes four hitters with batting averages over .300. Host Hagerstown, a co-leader in the Tri-Eastern Conference, entered the contest ranked third in the 2A Coaches Poll and first in the MaxPreps Poll. The Tigers sent out a line-up that includes five players with batting averages over .300 and a pitching staff with a miniscule 0.85 earned run average.

Statistically, the Raiders won most categories in the game that went down to the wire. Shenandoah went into the last inning trailing 4-1. A walk, an infield hit, and a two-RBI double cut the deficit to 4-3. Tiger relief pitcher Dom Anderson struck out a Raider batter with two outs and two runners on base to end the threat and nail down the win for Hagerstown.

Shenandoah out-hit the Tigers 8-2 and played great defense. But as Raiders Head Coach Bruce Stanley said in his postgame remarks, “You can play great defense, but you can’t defend against the walk.”

The contest had the feel of a tournament game from the first pitch. Tiger starter Brady McMillan quickly recorded two outs before Landen Freestone and Gavin Patrick singled back-to-back. A routine ground ball ended the threat and stranded both base runners.

Raider starter Blake Surface shut down the Tigers 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first. Neither team scored in the second inning. The Tigers drew back-to-back one out walks in the bottom half of the frame, but both the runners were stranded when Surface worked his way out of the jam.

Shenandoah finally put a single run on the scoreboard in the top of the third inning. Surface singled to open the frame. After recording two outs, the Tigers issued an intentional walk to the hot-hitting Freestone who entered the game with a .565 batting average. Patrick made them pay with an RBI single, his second hit of the game.

Trailing 1-0, Hagerstown opened the bottom of the third inning with Derek Davis and Grant Vinson both drawing walks. A sharp single from Cody Swimm down the third base line, that stayed fair by mere inches, plated Davis to tie the score at 1-1. A deep sacrifice fly from Camden Rhoades brought Vinson home and a hot ground ball from Dom Anderson plated Swimm to expand the Tiger lead to 3-1 after three innings.

Shenandoah’s Gabe Young opened the fourth inning with an infield hit, but he was later picked off in a rundown and McMillan struck out the next two Raiders.

Hagerstown added another run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Clay Cochran drew a walk to open the frame and promptly stole second base after a fly out to centerfield. McMillan followed with single down the first base line that brought Cochran home and prompted a Raider pitching change.

Coleson White came in with one out and one runner on base. He threw two pitches. The first was a called strike, the second was a ground ball out that Shenandoah turned into a double play after throwing McMillan out when he tried to advance to third. Neither team threatened in the fifth or sixth innings.

The Tigers brought in a new hurler to pitch the seventh inning. Dom Anderson, a flame-throwing sophomore, has been untouchable in previous relief appearances this season, but the Raiders roughed him up.

Anderson issued a four-pitch walk to Ty Alexander to open the inning. White joined him on base with an infield hit. A grounder from Surface moved the runners up a base. Kyle Randolph stroked a two-RBI double to pull Shenandoah to within one run at 4-3 with Alexander on second and one out.

Anderson struck out the next batter for the second out before hitting the next batter. With two out and two on, it was crunch time. Anderson struck out the Raider batter on three pitches to end the game.

Junior Brady McMillan, who pitched the first six innings, striking out nine, got the win and improved his record to 3-0 on the current season and 12-0 for his career.

Raider Head Coach Bruce Stanley said the walks the Raiders issued came back to haunt them.

“Both team are trying to find themselves in the early season” Stanley observed. “I felt like we beat them in every aspect of the game other than the fact that three walks we issued scored. We feel good with where we are right now. Games like this now will make us better later. We have gotten better every game. If Hagerstown is a top-five team, we are right there with them.”

Tiger Head Coach Brad Catey said good teams find a way to win games like this.

“They (Raiders) out-hit us, and they pitched well.” Catey said. “But we found ways to get enough runners on base and then to get them home to hang on. Shenandoah is good. This will help the team and it will help Dom Anderson from a confidence standpoint going ahead.”

Hagerstown played at Monroe Central Saturday. Shenandoah hosts Blue River Valley Monday for a MEC game.