[Baltimore Sun] Hunter St. Denis leads Magruder baseball to Class 3A baseball state final after beating Poly, 8-0

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COLESVILLE —He barely cracked a smile through the postgame fanfare. Hunter St. Denis stepped off the mound after tossing a masterful complete-game shutout and was reluctant to reveal much emotion. He discarded his glove while his teammates flooded the field in a stint of delirium.

Then they gave St. Denis his flowers for helping No. 3-seed Magruder down No. 2 Poly, 8-0 in a Class 3A state semifinal.

“He’s the goat,” one of his teammates said, after the senior pitcher’s 10-strikeout performance. Coach Josh Creighton admitted he was speechless. He put it simply: “We go where he goes. … He’s the best player in Magruder history. Hands down.”

Tuesday’s win to reach the state final is another feather in the University of Maine commit’s cap. The Colonels will play No. 5 Chesapeake-AA at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Regency Stadium in Waldorf.

“I’m pretty excited,” St. Denis said. “This is the furthest Magruder has made it. … It’s amazing to do this in my senior year, my last year of high school.”

Creighton remembers first meeting the sizable freshman and hearing he was a Boy Scout –– an ode to the kind-hearted character the third-year coach saw. Then Creighton watched him play at a fall ball game and noticed how fast he rounded the bases for a boy of his size.

“He’s slimmed down,” Creighton said, “and he’s just gone the extra mile that you have to go to be a champion. He’s the reason why we’re here.”

St. Denis wore Poly down peppering the strike zone, surrendering just three hits and as many walks. Base running has been a strength all year for the Engineers. “That part of our game was taken away from us,” Poly coach Corey Goodwin said.

The lone threats of Engineer offense came in the game’s first two innings, with a man on third and two outs. St. Denis caught the third out swinging in both instances.

“It definitely helps build [my confidence],” St. Denis said of the his hot start. “When I know my stuff, I got it when I need it, when I can locate when I need to, that helps a lot.”

His performance on the bump was plenty decisive. Magruder didn’t need much from St. Denis’ bat on Tuesday; Poly intentionally walked him twice — the utmost sign of respect. Creighton interjected that notion to point out how important his second free pass was.

It was the fourth inning and Terrion Pettus knocked a hard RBI single to center field that gave the Colonels a 3-0 lead. St. Denis took his base next to push Pettus to second and later scored on a ground ball hit by Xavier Headen ruled obstruction on the first baseman.

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St. Denis later sent a hard hit ball to deep center field for a sacrifice fly and the game’s final run.

Goodwin gathered his team postgame in the far grass under the clear sky. They reflected on this year’s journey. This wasn’t anywhere near where the Engineers wanted to be and they didn’t shy away from that fact.

Magruder ran up Leo Boehringer’s pitch count. He crossed the 70-pitch threshold in the third inning and was pulled after four innings of 93 pitches, eight walks, two strikeouts and five earned runs. The Colonels drew more walks (10) than hits (6).

“We’re not gonna hang out heads, we made some history,” Goodwin said, noting this was the program’s first state semifinal appearance. “But we wanted to kind of kick the door in for Baltimore City. We are approaching it, but a win here today and a win Saturday would’ve done just that. This means a lot for everybody. … To kind of set the tone for what it means to be a part of this program.”

Five of Goodwin’s eight seniors are signed and committed to play baseball at the college level, “which is unheard of in Baltimore City,” he said.

Poly can hang its hat on its best year in program history. But Magruder’s catalyst, St. Denis, kept his emotions in check with one more to go.

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