When the Northeast baseball team traveled to Chesapeake for a rivalry showdown on May 1, the program hadn’t been victorious in the matchup in years.
Owen Shriver and Eagles changed that.
Shriver was masterful in a near-complete game, allowing just four hits, striking out six and holding Chesapeake scoreless over 6.2 innings and 106 pitches to push the Eagles to a 2-0 victory.
Austin Dillon was 2 for 3 with a double for Northeast, while Justin Kennedy and Ryan Adams both singled and scored and Austin Anthony also singled for the Eagles, who got their first win in the rivalry since a 16-inning epic won 3-2 by Northeast in April of 2015.
For the Eagle seniors, the win over Chesapeake — at Chesapeake, on the Cougars’ senior day, no less — was a long time coming, and a perfect coda to the regular season.
“It’s a great feeling because we never beat them in high school, and we grew up playing with a lot of them,” said Kennedy.
Northeast was proud not just to defeat its main rival, but to deploy its baseball acumen to get a difficult win over a strong Cougars team; the Eagles got hammered by Chesapeake 14-0 on April 1, but came back to execute well in the rematch.
Eagle head coach Adam Bolling knows that the fine-tuned details are key in any game against the always well-coached Cougars.
“That’s a signature win for us,” said Bolling. “We out-baseballed some people. This Chesapeake-Northeast game is like the ‘Dena Bowl. [The coaches] don’t look at it like that, but the kids do. This is Lake Shore Blue Sox and Gray Sox vs. Pasadena Eagles, and now they’re Northeast Eagles and Chesapeake Cougars. We’re both good teams. [Chesapeake is] in a tremendous cycle, and we’ve played them tough except for that last game that was lopsided.”
The chess match began early and built throughout a low-scoring game with a playoff-like intensity and atmosphere. The Eagles failed to score in the first, and Shriver, just a sophomore, took the mound against a powerful Chesapeake lineup. Despite allowing a hit and two walks in the first, Shriver induced two ground-ball putouts to escape with no damage.
That was important, because the Eagles’ second trip to the plate ended up spotting Shriver a lead. Adams led off with a single off Chesapeake starter Dylan Young, and Kennedy followed with a double to plate Adams for a 1-0 lead.
From there, Shriver settled in, retiring the side in order in the second, third and fourth innings, picking up a strikeout in each.
“Owen Shriver was dealing,” said Bolling. “For a sophomore to come up and do what he’s done this year, he’s been great.”
Said Chesapeake coach Ken King, “We ran into a guy who threw pitches we couldn’t hit. We failed to make an adjustment, and whether it would have mattered, I don’t know, but I would have liked to see us try. [Shriver] was really good today.”
Shriver got help from his defense, particularly in the infield. Senior shortstop Eric Walters made five tough putouts on grounders, while the outfield tracked down multiple fly balls for outs, giving Shriver the confidence he needed to fire away. The Eagles committed zero errors.
Walters said composure was central to the matchup.
“The key was to stay composed and not play with too much emotion like we did last time, because we know a lot of these players,” Walters said.
Beyond composure, the Eagles played loose, with palpable confidence, a mix of smiles and laughter and cheers of encouragement streaming from the dugout. The composed confidence yielded another run in the sixth inning, when Kennedy led off with a single, and subsequent hits by Anthony and Brian Titus plated Kennedy to make the lead 2-0.
Shriver faced four batters in the sixth, then got the first two outs in the seventh before surpassing the pitch-count maximum of 105 on the second batter. Nate Stephens came on in relief and induced a ground ball to third baseman Duncan Katzenberger, who fired to first to end the game.
Shriver was embraced by the Eagles at the final out.
“My defense, they made all the plays I needed them to make, and me throwing all the strikes I needed to throw to help the team,” said Shriver. “I tried to keep everything away and make sure I have my off-speed pitches. It feels great. I’m happy.”
The win was a bellwether of continued improvement for the Eagles, who have lots of sophomores and juniors ready to keep the program strong. The program has flashed its ability throughout the season, including in a tight win over Broadneck and an extra-inning loss to South River, the county’s top two teams this season. Against the Bruins on April 18, Shriver scattered five hits and recorded nine strikeouts in a 3-2 victory, while Colby Sanders had three hits and Titus, Adams and Walters each had two hits. Adams has also excelled pitching for the Eagles this year, recording five victories. Adams struck out 10 Southern batters in an April 12 win over the Bulldawgs on a day when Caleb Zaruba was 3 for 4 with two RBIs and Dillon was 3 for 3 with a double and two runs.
Bolling noted how thin the margins are between being a strong team and one of the best teams — a tier Northeast hopes to reach in the coming seasons.
“We’re in it with a lot of teams, and our record is deceiving,” said Bolling. “If you think a .500 team in Anne Arundel County is going to be a pushover, good luck. We’re a team that could very much be near the top of the county, and here comes our confidence.”