There’s a positive feedback loop occurring for the Broadneck baseball team this spring, in which winning begets fun, which leads to winning, which snowballs into more fun.
Attend a game, and a hilarious stream of antics spills out of the Bruins’ dugout. A gaudy wrestling championship belt makes an appearance. Spontaneous fist-pump dances pop off. The sneak-attack untucking of teammates’ jerseys is a constant danger. Patrolling over it all like sentinel gargoyles is a mysterious pair of magnificently ugly, plastic chupacabra-like creatures perched atop the fencepost.
The Bruins are letting it rip, and they don’t care what anyone thinks about it.
It was all on display in the Bruins’ 7-4 win over visiting rival Severna Park on April 24.
The Falcons fared better than any other team this season against Broadneck starting pitcher Nick Gatton, totaling nine hits and four earned runs against the Bruins’ senior ace. But Gatton kept his composure, got outs and defensive backing when he needed it, recorded all 21 outs in seven full innings and led the Bruins’ offensive charge to help Broadneck to a solid victory.
Gatton was 4-for-4 at the plate, Dylan Tenney had two hits and three RBIs, Nick Toskov had two base hits, and Broadneck racked up 13 hits in overcoming the Falcons to move to 12-2 overall on the season, including 10-2 in Anne Arundel County.
“It’s always a good day to beat Severna Park twice in a season,” said Gatton, who entered the game having not given up a run in 24.1 innings pitched and was the winning pitcher in a 3-0 defeat of the Falcons on March 26. Despite his relatively substandard performance on the mound against the Falcons this time around, he said the win is the latest example of the Bruins’ energy and confidence carrying them to a solid win against a good team. “We’ve been playing with each other for a while now, and guys really love each other,” Gatton said. “We’ve got great chemistry this year, and that’s what’s really propelled us to do how we’re doing right now.”
Broadneck got offensive production to jump out to an early advantage, taking a 4-0 lead with two runs in both the first and second innings. Even after Severna Park got to Gatton for two runs in the top of the fourth, the Bruins responded with another two in the bottom of inning and tacked on another in the sixth. Ben Schultz, Jackson Halla, Matt Isaac, Ryan Smolen and Ethan Soto all had hits to help Broadneck answer every Severna Park comeback attempt.
Severna Park battled back from deficits with two-run frames in the fourth and sixth innings. Jordan Hallet and Brendan Simonds had two hits apiece for Severna Park, while Tom McGalliard added an RBI base hit and Jackson Merrill, Camden Handwerger, Josh Horgan and Corey Bodnar all managed hits against the normally stout Gatton.
Gatton crept up on the 105-pitch limit to close the game (he threw 103), getting three consecutive fly outs to center fielder Toskov to end the game. His ERA rose from 0.00 to a still stellar 0.90 in earning the win, his fifth of the season.
Broadneck coach Matt Skrenchuk said Gatton has been superb both as a pitcher and offensively, and it has led an energized Broadneck season, in which the Bruins are firmly in the mix for a spot in the county championship game and top region seeding.
“Nick really gives us a great chance to win every time he steps up. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. … The guys play with a lot of confidence. Last year, we started seven underclassmen out of nine. So we’ve returned just about everybody except for two outfielders. Last year we took some lumps with that, but it’s starting to pay dividends this year, because the guys have had a lot of experience and have played in a lot of tight games. They play at a high level in the offseason, and it’s starting to pay off for us.”
Tenney, a senior, said the Bruins are working hard and receiving pragmatic benefits from El Hefe, the pair of snarling creatures adoring the Bruins’ dugout.
“It’s just everyone communicating and working together,” Tenney said. “Everyone pushes each other at practice. We get better every day. It’s the little things we do really well. Making plays, making contact, moving the runners over. It’s the simple things. … El Hefe is our battle coyote. Sometimes he has armor. We’ll put catcher’s gear on him. He’s like the mascot. He keeps away the geese, because they doo-doo all over our field. He’s our good luck charm.”
There’s a chance the Bruins will see Severna Park again. The Falcons are still having a strong season at 12-4 overall, and with losses only to Broadneck (twice), South River and Chesapeake, the Falcons could secure a spot in the county championship game and a potential rematch with the Bruins; South River, Chesapeake and Arundel are all still alive for the same opportunity.
Severna Park head coach Eric Milton was happy to see the Falcons battle back and hit Gatton better than anyone else has this year but said his lineup might have been going for the haymaker early in the game.
“[Broadneck] got out to a lead and put the ball in play,” Milton said. “First couple innings, we were trying to go for the home run instead of putting the ball in play. We had some hard-hit balls right at guys. It was a close game at the end. Their balls found holes, and ours didn’t.”
The loss interrupted a recent strong stretch for the Falcons, who scored a combined 34 runs in recent wins over Meade, North Point and Huntingtown and are 8-2 over their last 10 games. In the win over North Point on April 20, a 17-2 drubbing, Simonds had a grand slam and a double, Merrill had three hits, Horgan had three hits and two doubles, Evan Lewis had two hits and a double, and Caleb Robinson added a double and three RBIs. In a 6-5 win over Huntingtown that same day, Horgan doubled and homered and had two RBIs, and Lewis hit a solo home run. Catcher Mark Sasse added a double, Merrill and Bodnar each had two hits, Parker Jones had an RBI and Matt Simms had two hits.
Severna Park rebounded with a strong win over Arundel on April 27, defeating the Wildcats 11-5. Horgan homered and doubled and had four RBIs, while Merrill was 3-for-3 with two runs. Lewis doubled, Handwerger singled and scored three runs, Bodnar singled and scored twice, and Sasse had an RBI. Simonds was the winning pitcher.
With playoffs nearing, the feeling is the Falcons still have another gear to reach. Starting pitchers Simonds and Lewis and reliever Logan Harris have been strong for the Falcons, who are looking to round fully into form as the calendar turns to May, when pitching will be key as always.
“We have Evan and Brendan, and Logan is our go-to in relief,” said Milton. “Evan and Brendan have been great, and that’s who we’re going to ride.”