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Normand A. Bernache⁄Special to the gazetteKevin Brady belts the game-winning home run for GSA Metro Fleet against Frederick Monday.
But it wasn’t until Brady stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning that either team looked like winning Monday night’s contest, the 15-and-under travel division championship of the Greater Washington 4th of July Baseball Tournament.
With one towering solo homer over the left-field fence at Rockville’s Walter Johnson Field in Dogwood Park, Brady capped off a supreme evening on the mound by sparking his offense, which scored twice more in the inning en route to a 3-1 victory.
‘‘It was out in front, so I just went with it,” said Gaithersburg High’s Brady, who pitched a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts and only three walks. ‘‘I thought it was just a pop fly, and it just kept going.”
The win was a relief for a rarely tested Metro Fleet team that went 23-1 in regular-season Montgomery County Baseball Association play, but which suffered a lopsided loss against Frederick in a July 1 pool-play game. The rain pushed back the championship game scheduled for Saturday between the pool’s top two teams.
But any reason to worry evaporated after Brady’s solo shot. Gaithersburg High’s Nick Vergelli followed Brady’s homer by reaching first on a throwing error. Three batters later, Vergelli scampered home from third when Wootton’s Mike Mooney escaped a rundown between first and second. Mooney went to second on the play, then scored on a single from Magruder’s Matt Miller to make it 3-0.
It was a cruel fate for Frederick, whose starter, Jimmy Lanning (Frederick High), had pitched four scoreless innings before being lifted after 75 pitches.
‘‘I wanted to stay in there because I’m a competitor and whatnot,” Lanning said. ‘‘But it was really the smart thing to do to take me out and not throw me too long.”
And it was perhaps unfair for the group of all-stars, chosen from Babe Ruth league play, who could’ve made up the game July 3, but accommodated Metro Fleet’s scheduled trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., instead of accepting a forfeit win.
With the Babe Ruth state tournament approaching this weekend, Frederick manager Terry Shaw tried to focus on the big picture for his team, largely the same squad that won the 14-and-under Babe Ruth state title last year — and the13-and-under crown in 2004.
‘‘Small things, in the context of the game, we didn’t do well,” Shaw said. ‘‘But against any other team I’d be happy to give up three runs. Because we could probably win the ball game.”
Despite Brady’s dominance, Frederick had its chances. In the fourth, Lanning beat out a late throw from short to reach first, but was caught stealing second without a slide after he held up, confused by a yell from his own dugout.
That theme continued through the inning, which ended on a wild play that included a force out at second, an overthrow at first, and a 2-4 rundown putout of Tuscarora High’s Danny Abrecht.
Frederick finally broke through on Hank Adams’ single to center, which skipped past Quince Orchard’s Anthony Howard for a two-base error that brought in Lanning.
But Brady and his defense recovered to close the game. It’s something they hope to continue this weekend at their state title competition, the American Amateur Baseball Congress Maryland State Tournament.
‘‘This is probably the toughest game I’ve had to pitch all season,” said Brady, who wasn’t including the varsity action he saw this year as a sophomore member of Gaithersburg’s pitching rotation.
Added Metro Fleet manager Joe Stolz: ‘‘The most important preparation for an important tournament is mental preparation. If you’ve got good players, you have to have the right frame of mind. And playing a tough team the week before states gets you in a good frame of mind.”