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Glenelg baseball shows fight but falls just short in 6-5 loss to Middletown in 2A state final

May 25—WALDORF — Glenelg baseball never stopped fighting. Playing in the Class 2A state championship game for the second time in three years, the No. 2 seed Gladiators found themselves in an early two-run hole against No. 4 Middletown.

The Gladiators didn't flinch and immediately struck back with two runs of their own. Glenelg trailed by three in the bottom of the sixth inning and yet again scratched and clawed to even the score at 5.

After Middletown retook the lead in the top of the seventh, Glenelg stayed relentless, putting the potential tying run on second base and the go-ahead run on first. However, the Gladiators' final rally fell short as Middletown secured the final out and the Class 2A championship with a 6-5 win at Regency Furniture Stadium.

While the Gladiators didn't achieve their ultimate goal, Saturday afternoon was a microcosm of their defining characteristic all season: fight.

"That's what we just talked about, they never quit," Glenelg coach Steve Tiffany said. "Multiple times this year we trailed. We were down five runs to Reservoir, down 4-2 in our first playoff game against Southern. Our guys just never give up. It's the never quit mentality. I thought chasing three runs against that team was going to be difficult and they just competed. We battled and that's all I can ask. We competed every second of this game."

That no-quit attitude starts with the Gladiators' leadership and the program's six seniors, specifically four-year varsity starters Logan Pusheck and Zach LaFountain. Both players have endured pretty much every emotion on a baseball field, from a gut-wrenching 3-2 regional final loss to Century in extra innings to begin their varsity careers to the elation of winning the 2022 state championship as sophomores.

Yet, coming off a disappointing state quarterfinal loss to Sparrows Point last season, the emotions were different. The Gladiators used that defeat as motivation and developed a chip on their shoulders entering the 2024 campaign.

"The fight comes from [that] we see what everyone says," Pusheck said. "We're supposed to lose every game we're in. No one expected us to win a playoff game. No one expected us to get here. I'm so proud of this team in particular."

LaFountain added: "The biggest thing was when we lost, we all just worked harder. Every time somebody said that we weren't going to win, we just took that underdog mentality, battled and won."

LaFountain also embodied that relentless, yet in a different way. The senior anxiously awaited the opportunity to start in a state championship game. He was slated to pitch in the 2022 final, but rain adjusted his schedule, and he instead took the mound for the semifinal.

Then he missed the majority of last season with an injury. Pitching his best down the stretch of this season, LaFountain battled again Saturday against a challenging Middletown lineup. He went six innings, allowing five runs and striking out four.

"The biggest thing is just getting back to the state championship again," LaFountain said. "Every year, we've just battled and made a great run. I'm kind of sad we couldn't execute, but it's still a crazy way to get back here."

Saturday afternoon's loss capped a remarkable three-year run for the Gladiators' senior class. They went 55-12 over that span, with three straight region titles, the program's sixth state championship and its eighth state championship game appearance.

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"I'm going to remember all the memories, the ups and downs," Pusheck said. "The practices every day, the guys. Our coaches have us ready no matter who we're playing, even when we're not supposed to win. Two years ago, we played 24-0 Patuxent in the state championship, we weren't supposed to win that. I'm going to remember everything."

All of that success came despite losing a plethora of talented seniors each year. Glenelg graduated nine seniors last year and didn't miss a beat. Junior Nick Bilotto progressed as a pitcher, becoming an ace and one of Howard County's best. Freshman shortstop Blake Bourne and sophomore second baseman Austin Nazelrod developed into foundational pieces.

Seniors Michael Tolle, Danny Dorsey, Ty Whittaker and Nick Emig thrived in increased roles, developing into integral players for the Gladiators both offensively and defensively. Dorsey set the tone from the leadoff spot, Tolle provided power as the No. 4 hitter and Emig and Whittaker were pivotal defensively at catcher and first base, respectively. Pusheck and LaFountain became cornerstones, leaving an indelible mark that won't soon be forgotten.

"I told the seniors, 'You're not going to remember much now, but in four or five years when you sit down and get back together, [you'll remember] these memories of competing, winning three region championships in a row and going to two state championships out of three years," Tiffany said. "The legacy that this senior class has built is remarkable. You probably go back 25 years since a four-year window of kids that have competed and have done what they've done."

Middletown- 2 0 0 1 0 2 1- 6 7 0

Glenelg- 2 0 0 0 0 3 0- 5 4 2

WP: Wyatt Hopson; LP: Zach LaFountain.

3B: M- Fredy Diaz.