Six years ago while playing baseball at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Mount Airy resident Matt Buchholz set out to find a summer league team to further hone his skills.
And after a brief search, the pitcher-infielder, who played scholastically at baseball-rich Old Mill High School in Millersville, eventually landed with the Frederick Flying Dogs, a semi-pro team that competes in the Mid-Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League.
He has been an irreplaceable member of the Flying Dogs ever since, including this season, leading Frederick to MMSPBL final with his lively arm and potent bat.
“He’s been pitching for us since his sophomore year in college at UMBC,” Frederick player-manager Nick Collingham said. “He’s got an ability to stay healthy all year round and he knows how to throw strikes. He pounds the strike zone. He’s one of the middle-of-the-lineup hitters [as well].
“It’s nice to have solid pitcher like him. He’s a guy you can rely on for a complete game every week. He always gives us a chance to win.”
That certainly has been the case this season as Buchholz has compiled a perfect 9-0 record with an earned run aveage around 1.00 and 91 strikeouts in 62 innings. He has allowed nine runs on 32 hits with just 12 walks.
Offensively, Buchholz, who mans second base when not on the mound, has produced a .400-plus batting average with six doubles, two home runs, 27 runs batted in, 20 walks and six stolen bases in nearly 100 at-bats.
“I work hard at it in the offseason,” Buchholz said. “I go to the cage with Ryan Morse, who is on the team. We work out during the offseason, trying to refine our swing and throwing a lot and work on a bunch of things. I always try to play very aggressively.”
Buchholz’s play this season mirrors his lengthy career with the Frederick Flying Dogs. He has produced a career batting average of .384 with 11 home runs, 47 doubles, eight triples, 111 RBI at the plate and a 58-9 mark on the mound with a 1.62 ERA and 664 strikeouts in 455 2/3 innings. He captured 10 wins in 2006 and 2010 and had nine-win seasons in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
“As a defense we know he’s going to pound the zone,” Flying Dogs third baseman Steve Shriner said. “When he’s pitching, we’re confident as a team and even if we can’t score a lot of runs, we know he’s got our back. It’s just a great feeling knowing he’s on the mound every other game we play.”
What Buchholz covets even more than those personal statistics is the success the Flying Dogs have had during his time, including four MMSPBL titles in the past five years and a trip to the National Amatuer Baseball Federation regional final in 2011, as victories at UMBC were few and far between throughout his college career.
The Flying Dogs captured the MMSPBL title Sunday with Buchholz earning both wins on the mound — one in relief and the other through a five-inning start. His squad next plays in the NABF regionals next week.
“I have a great time and we have a great bunch of guys,” Buchholz said. “There are probably about three or four guys who have been there since I’ve been there and we tacked on quite a few new guys. We bring on good teammates.”
While Buchholz pitched from UMBC from 2004-07, the Retrievers recorded 18 or fewer wins each season in 50-plus games, including a 13-40 mark in his senior season. Frederick also provided Buchholz with much more time on the mound and in the field. He totaled roughly 19 innings his first two seasons with UMBC, 24 1/3 innings as a junior and then 49 2/3 as a senior when he went 1-3 with a 5.62 ERA.
“That was a good experience,” Buchholz said. “I got to play against a lot of quality ballplayers, a few guys have since made it to the major leagues. We never really won a lot of games … and I didn’t play a lot myself. It was more about being a good teammate and working hard. I ended up pitching more in the summer than I did during college.
“Out of high school, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities [to play collegiately]. I received an academic scholarship at UMBC and they also wanted me to play. It made my decision real easy.”