Slumping Ohler goes with it, provides sac fly to send Brunswick baseball past Catoctin

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick baseball coach Roger Dawson had confidence in third baseman Conner Ohler, who strode to the plate with the winning run on third base and one out. His Railroader teammates had confidence in him, too.

But Ohler needed to prove to himself that he could make a crucial contribution.

He had been hitless in the five games leading up to Wednesday’s contest with Catoctin, and he was 0-for-3 to this point in the afternoon, batting eighth in the order. Ohler needed a slump-buster, and there was no better time than with the game on the line against a rival.

So, Ohler took an 0-1 fastball down the right field line. It hung up for Cougars right fielder Patrick Morlan to catch it, but the drive was deep enough to plate pinch runner Carter Vinar.

Ohler’s walk-off sacrifice fly lifted Brunswick to a 3-2 home victory, an at-bat he hopes will break his skid for good.

“I was just trying to get a ball in the outfield,” he said. “Got that outside pitch and just went with it.”

Dawson preached that approach to Ohler in a meeting between the two moments before that decisive at-bat.

He wanted the senior to continue barreling the ball as he has this year, even during his slump. Ohler even had two hard-hit shots earlier in Wednesday’s contest that were scooped by Catoctin shortstop Bryont Green.

“He’s been barreling the ball. He just hasn’t gotten anything the last couple of games,” Dawson said. “I feel good for him. He came up in a situation where once again, he put a good barrel on it, put it deep in the outfield and allowed us to get the go-ahead run.”

It was Ohler’s first walk-off in high school, one he felt confident about right off the bat.

When Vinar crossed the plate, his Roader teammates poured out of the dugout to chase Ohler around and mob him in celebration on the infield.

“The adrenaline was bumping. I was out of breath,” Ohler said.

Yet, his chance only materialized after a one-out throwing error gave Brunswick (15-2) extra life. It seemed as if that was the baseball gods responding to the top of the seventh, when two Roader errors enabled the Cougars to even the contest on Green’s sacrifice fly.

Catoctin then pushed the go-ahead run to third base with two outs, but reliever Colin Pearre induced a fly out to center field to end the threat.

“Just trying to keep their lefties off-balance … and then the last couple guys, just spin some breakers,” Pearre said.

The junior right-hander will return the mound Thursday against Catoctin, a rare back-to-back with the same opponent brought about by early season rainouts. Pearre used the appearance to also gain a feel for how he will approach the Cougars in that game.

The same was true of Catoctin (10-7).

“Today was kind of like a fact-finding mission,” Cougars coach Mike Franklin said.

One of those facts is the potential long-term viability of sophomore right-hander Mason Ferrell as a member of the rotation. He entered Wednesday with six total innings for the season, but he gritted through five innings of seven-hit ball against the Roaders, striking out four and stranding the bases loaded twice.

He was matched by Brunswick right-hander Tyler Lowery, who battled through a long first two innings before pitching into the seventh. He fanned eight and surrendered just one earned run.

The Roaders ultimately couldn’t offer Lowery run support after scoring twice in the first inning, once on an error and once on first baseman Connor Mullaney’s RBI single. They frequently put runners on base — right fielder Payden McDonald even went 4-for-4 with four singles — but stranded 11.

“We hit the ball. We just didn’t hit when we needed to, and that’s typically what this team’s been doing in the clutch,” Dawson said.

So, Ohler’s winning sacrifice brought relief, both to the team and to the third baseman. Will it be a slump-buster?

“Hopefully,” he said.