“A lot of ups and downs,” Frogs starting pitcher Andrew Catron said. “There was a couple of innings where maybe we didn’t have our best stuff but we always picked each other up.”
Both the Frogs and the Panthers had delivered clutch hits over the course of the long and winding contest, but neither earned most of their runs by stringing together base knocks. Instead, the crowd at St. Albans in Northwest Washington was treated to a roller coaster of walks, aggressive base running, passed balls and the occasional errant throw.
The Frogs (20-5) looked like they might run away with the game early, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Their run production never slowed, but the Potomac bats also woke up and the Panthers (13-9) led at 5-4 and then again at 9-7.
After Maret leveled things at nine in the bottom of the fifth, the tone of the game shifted. What had been a loose and free-flowing affair was suddenly tense and microscopic, as the players realized every play could decide a championship.
In the bottom of the eighth, senior catcher Robbie Engelberg led things off for Maret. Part of him wanted to swing for the fences, but with the heart of the order behind him, Engelberg knew he just had to get on base to put his team in good shape. He ripped a grounder up the heart of the diamond and watched from first as teammate Ben Pew strode to the plate.
Pew worked the count and then lined a base hit to center field. Engelberg came barreling toward third and, just as the center fielder bobbled the ball, got the green light from Coach Antoine Williams to head home. He crossed with ease, and a mob of celebratory teammates caught up to Pew moments later.
“[Coach Williams] was waving me the whole way, but I was going no matter what,” Engelberg said with a laugh.
The Panthers also won a share of the conference’s regular season title this spring, making this the first time since 2013 they have won an outright MAC championship.
“Today I saw what I’ve seen from this team all year,” Williams said. “They battled. They were down but they were never out of it. … I’ll remember this group for its work ethic. They were always ready to embrace the moment.”