HAGERSTOWN —North Hagerstown’s baseball team would gladly make some additional room in the school’s trophy case for another piece of hardware.
With one small plaque for the Maryland Class 3A West region title in hand, the Hubs (19-3) continue their pursuit of a state title Tuesday night at 7 when they go against the Bel Air Bobcats in a state semifinal game at Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover.
North reached the state semis with a nine-inning 6-5 win over Seneca Valley on Friday in the 3A West final.
Bel Air (18-5) beat a good Eastern Tech team 7-4 for the 3A North crown.
The Hubs are seeking their fourth state championship. North won a Class A title in 1986, a Class 3A crown in 1989 and earned the Class 2A title in 2010.
North reached the Class 3A state semifinals last season, but fell victim to a perfect game by North Harford’s Kevin Mooney.
“(Bel Air) must be doing something right to reach this point,” Hubs coach Drew Crawford said. “They have to be a decent team because they beat a decent team.”
While North started the season with a 14-game winning streak, Bel Air has gotten hot late, entering the semifinals on a 10-game streak. One of its early-season losses was a 9-3 setback to Century, an MVAL Chesapeake squad.
One of Bel Air’s top players, who will likely see action on the mound, is senior Tyler Norcross, who signed to play Division I baseball at Charleston (S.C.) Southern University. Norcross was instrumental with his bat with two key hits in the win over Eastern Tech.
Another Bobcats star is pitcher/first baseman Ben Webber, a junior who hit a big two-run home run in the 3A North final.
North dropped three regular-season games in the two weeks before playoffs, and Crawford feels the setbacks were important to his team.
“Looking back, I think (the losses) were a huge blessing,” he said. “That gave us a chance to sit back, talk about them and see where we were.”
The Hubs had some pitching trouble late in the season with arm miseries, and the defense began to show some holes.
John Britton missed three weeks, Zane Schreiber was out and will not take the mound the rest of this season, and Andrew Yacyk had some problems but has since returned to the mound.
Britton (4-0, 1.99 ERA) has been stellar, stepping up to become the ace on the staff since his return. The staff has also been greatly aided by Tyler Shindle (3-1, two saves, 2.76 ERA) and Cole Conrad (2-0, one save, 2.33 ERA).
“Pitching injuries compounded some of our problems, but I think in all phases, except for moving up runners with the bunt, we’re getting back to playing better baseball,” Crawford said. “Each game through the playoffs, we’ve elevated our play. Seneca Valley was a big hurdle.”
Yacyk is the only regular on the team who played on the 2010 state-winning unit as a freshman.
“Right now, you take every game like it’s your last,” Yacyk said. “It doesn’t matter what we’ve done in the past. I think last year we went in a little too over-confident and ran into the wrong pitcher.”
Yacyk, the 2012 Herald-Mail All-County Hitter of the Year, is batting .391 with three homers and a team-best 26 RBIs. Austin Stone has four homers, 22 RBIs and a team-leading .443 average.
Matt Daley, a regular at shortstop on the 2012 team, is hitting .437 with 18 RBIs.
As a team, North is batting .346 and has a staff ERA of 3.60.
“For our seniors, this is their shot at redemption from last year,” Crawford said. “We don’t want a repeat. This is a chance to prove we belong here.”
In Tuesday’s earlier state semifinal at 4, La Plata will lock horns with Stephen Decatur. The winners will head to Cal Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md., for the championship game Saturday.
Stephen Decatur won the 3A South title with a 9-7 win over Huntingtown. La Plata beat Reservoir 3-1 for the 3A East title.