No. 9 FCC baseball hangs around, pull off 11th straight win on Harris' walk-off single

When Frederick Community College baseball lifted first baseman Christian Cabina for a pinch runner in the seventh inning, freshman Cooper Harris knew he could have the game on his bat, and he didn’t want it any other way.

The Cougars were staging a rally, and Harris was in line to replace Cabina at first base should the game go to extra innings. While Harris would have preferred to see his team finish the job in regulation, he certainly didn’t complain when he took the field in the eighth.

And when he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the inning with the winning run on second, Harris got his wish.

He took a two-strike pitch to left field, bringing Nick Keane home to clinch No. 9 FCC’s walk-off 3-2 home win over CCBC Catonsville in the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The Cougars earned the top seed in next week’s NJCAA Division II Region 20 tournament with a 9-3 win in the first game over the Cardinals (26-22), the second-place team in the conference.

“The second they took Christian out, I envisioned doing that the entire way,” Harris said. “It was all I was thinking.”

Harris has thrived in his freshman season as one of several role players making occasional high-leverage appearances off the bench for FCC.

While Tuesday was just his ninth game of the year, he’s quickly earning the trust of his coaches and teammates.

“It took a while. Never been part of that,” Harris said. “I’ve always been the guy in high school and travel ball, but you’ve gotta learn, or you don’t stick around.”

This walk-off was his first in college, and Cougars coach Rodney Bennett prepares his newcomers for these moments.

“Cooper’s had a great mindset, how he goes about his business,” Bennett said. “I tell these guys, you’re one play away. You’re one play away from getting in there, and you have to mentally be ready to go. And he went in there and just did it.”

That was also true of a few other FCC players in the prior inning, the do-or-die seventh.

The Cougars (46-5) had rarely found themselves in trouble this season, but CCBC Catonsville right-hander Cecil Barone flummoxed them all afternoon, retiring the first 17 batters he faced. Nick Varda reached on an error with two outs in the sixth to give FCC its first baserunner.

That seemed to generate a bit of life in the Cougars, who soon pieced together a rally. Keane legged out a double on a seeing-eye chopper to lead off the seventh, their first hit of the game. Three batters later, he came home on Will Gisriel’s RBI infield single. Then, Jake Holler tied the game with an RBI single of his own.

“Their pitcher did a very good job, but this isn’t an offense you keep to none,” FCC left-hander Zac Rose said. “It just doesn’t happen.”

It’s a good thing for Rose, too, as he gritted through 5 2-3 innings to keep the Cougars in contention.

He struck out six and scattered four hits, even working out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth.

“It was just a good time to be big. I got real worried for a moment, but I knew the boys had me,” Rose said. “I just had to go out and let it eat.”

Connor Leard then took over and retired all seven batters he faced, setting FCC in motion to win its 11th straight game.

That task eventually came around to Harris, substituted into the contest for the final inning. But he eagerly anticipated coming to the plate with a chance to win the game, and he delivered.

“We had no business winning that game until the seventh inning, but we hung around,” Bennett said. “As long as we stay in the game, we have a chance to get it going.”