Cissel Saxon Post 41’s players meandered toward a shaded hillside next to the field at Kelley Park with a jubilant enthusiasm.
They hugged parents and friends and one another.
Every third sentence out of coach Scott Dunlap’s mouth seemed to draw a big cackle from the group, which had just captured the Montgomery County American Legion baseball championship against Sandy Spring Post 68 in a 5-3 victory.
About the only thing that didn’t receive a rousing response was when Dunlap mentioned the fact that Post 41’s first round opponent in this week’s state tournament had the potential to be none other than Sandy Spring. The state tournament got under way Tuesday and runs through Saturday at McCurdy Field in Frederick.
All season, Sandy Spring dominated the league, winning 21 games and locking up the regular season title well before the final week.
In fact, in three regular-season meetings between Sandy Spring and Cissel Saxon, Post 68 outscored Post 41, 32-3. But in three meetings in the playoffs, Cissel Saxon won twice (7-5 and 5-3) to knock Sandy Spring into a play-in game to qualify for the state tournament.
Post 68 won that game Saturday, 17-11 against Fort Cumberland Post 13, setting up a first-round matchup between two teams that have become very familiar with one another.
“I did believe we had a good chance coming in because of all the talent we had and all the guys on this team,” Post 41 starter Jamie Dejter said following his complete-game victory on July 25. “We knew we were playing good ball and I think we had all the talent. It was just a matter of going out and doing it.”
Dejter was one of many Cissel Saxon players who amped up their performance in the decisive title game to help Post 41 earn a trip to McCurdy Field. Center fielder Brian Alexa had three hits while shortstop Pradip Ramamurti and left fielder Abram White both made spectacular plays in the field to neutralize Sandy Spring’s potent lineup.
“Just to get into the playoffs was special. This win is just icing on the cake,” Dunlap said.
If Post 41 hopes to march deep into the state tournament, it will need plenty more solid efforts. Catcher Brian Battaglia has been swinging a solid stick of late, while Dejter has turned in back-to-back quality starts and left-handed flame-thrower Max Shannon always presents a threat.
“We’re going to go out and have some fun,” Alexa said of the state tournament. “We have nothing to lose. We’re going to give it our all.”
After winning nine of the first 10 games of the season (coming off a 4-24 season in 2011), Cissel Saxon fell into a bit of a slide where the offense was out of sync. Still, the early hot streak provided enough momentum for the 16-9 club to make the playoffs.
“We’ve really achieved more than we set out to do this year,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap hoped for a playoff spot and pushed his team’s goals from there. Post 41 then secured the top spot in the Montgomery County double-elimination tournament before winning that championship. Whether or not Cissel Saxon can continue its tremendous push remains to be seen.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Dunlap said. “As long as you know in your heart of hearts that you give it 100 percent every night, that’s all I can ask for.”