COLLEGE PARK — Clinging to a one run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and with the bases loaded, Bel Air center fielder Liam Bowers dug into the batters box, unfazed with the opportunity that lied ahead.
Energized to the buzz behind him in the sweltering Friday night atmosphere, Bowers then hammered a deep double over the head of Quince Orchard center fielder, Carson Knight, clearing the bases and consequently drawing repetitive chants from the Bel Air faithful, “He’s a sophomore!”.
“I thrive on that stuff,” Bowers said of the student section. “I want to give everything I have into the field, into the fans, into the school. I train, I practice, do everything I can, when I come out here, it’s just another day at the office.”
At first glance, Bowers appears to be a seasoned varsity veteran, equipped with poise far beyond his years. Usually, it’s the seniors that leave their mark in prime moments. But in Friday’s Class 4A baseball state championship between Bel Air and Quince Orchard, it was Bowers’ night, leading the Cougars to the state crown with an 8-1 victory.
“He’s a kid that just goes nonstop,” said head coach John Swanson. “He runs like a Gazelle, he can field anything, he exudes confidence. … He gives you everything he’s got.”
Bowers would finish his night with three hits in four plate appearances, picking up three key RBI’s while swiping two stolen bases.
For a team that nearly averages seven runs per game, only having two going into the sixth inning seemed a little out of the ordinary for the Bobcats. Built-up experience and timely patience triggered a six run outburst in the bottom of the sixth inning fueled by Bowers’ three-run double.
“When they came in each half inning, I told them, ‘Be patient, be patient’,” Swanson said. “We knew we were going to get our bats on the ball.”
Despite what Swanson termed as a “bit of a struggling” performance for Bel Air’s workhorse Jack Jenkens, he nursed a one run lead until the run support came along.
In the first inning, Jenkens forced a 6-4-3 double play to strand two Quince orchard runners. He duplicated the first inning in the second, turning another 6-4-3 double play to leave two more runners on base. Jenkens worked a quick 1-2-3 third inning before allowing his first run the top of the fourth inning.
He was then pulled after allowing a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth inning.
“He’s a competitor, he’s our horse,” Swanson said of Jenkens.
Jenkens, the Shippensburg University signee, finished as the winning pitcher. He went five innings, allowing one earned run on three hits and three walks while punching out four batters.
“Couldn’t ask for anything better,” Jenkens said, who finishes his senior year with an 8-1 record (1.51 ERA) and striking out 47 batters in 46.67 innings pitched. “I feel so blessed.”
Jenkens and relief pitcher Mike Yetter combined to strand eight Quince Orchard (18-6) runners. In the five game playoff stretch, the Bel Air pitching staff allowed only two runs. For any baseball stat geeks, that’s a 0.40 ERA.
Luke Beyers finished one for two, plating three RBI’s while stealing one base for Bel Air. Jenkens drove in two runs for the Bobcats.
Nick Moon knocked in the Cougars lone run in the fourth inning.
“I love it,” Bowers said. “I love the guys. I love playing on this team. Baseball is my first love. Can’t put anymore into words, it’s a state championship.”
|Quince Orchard (18-6)||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||1||3|
|Bel Air (19-4)||1||0||1||0||0||6||–||8||9|
WP: Jack Jenkens (8-1), 5+ IP, 1 ER, 3 hits, 3 BB’s, 4 K’s
LP: Nick Wong (6-1), 5.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 hits, 3 BB’s, 3 K’s