Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Post 171 can’t take advantage of second chance

Damascus loses county final, then state play-in game

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The Damascus Post 171 baseball team endured a double dose of heartbreak in recent days.

After squeaking into last week’s Montgomery County American Legion postseason tournament and then dropping the opening game to regular-season champion Laurel Post 60, Post 171 scored a pair of upsets and reached Sunday’s championship game against Gaithersburg Post 104.

Any hopes of defeating Post 104 and forcing a second championship game (the tournament had a double-elimination format), however, came to an abrupt halt as Post 104 (20-11 record) opened up a 6-0 lead and received a complete-game, 14-strikeout effort from Kevin Brady en route to a 9-1 victory at Damascus Regional Park.

‘‘Everyone was psyched up to face Kevin Brady,” said Post 171 centerfielder Tom Gilchrist, whose Sherwood High squad fell in the Class 4A state final this past spring. ‘‘Everyone wanted to hit him. We tried our best but he’s a dominant pitcher and he deserved it.”

Despite that loss, Post 171 was given another opportunity to reach this weekend’s Maryland State American Legion tournament for the first time since 2000. With the reduction of the Mountain District to just two teams, the winner — Garrett County Post 71⁄214 — had to play and beat the second-place team from Montgomery County to reach state play. A division has to have at least three teams for the champion to qualify automatically for state play.

And through six innings of play during Monday’s state play-in game, held at Mt. Airy Gold Star Post 191, Damascus looked poised to take advantage of the afforded mulligan. But a rough seventh inning and then a two-out, run-scoring single by Garrett County’s Tommie Reams in the bottom of the 10th brought Post 171’s season to an end with a 6-5 loss.

Damascus, under first-year manager Dan Boyd, finished the season with a 22-18 overall record.

‘‘I’m happy about the season,” Boyd said. ‘‘It was all about the effort. They’d go through a rough spot and they’d pick themselves up. [To reach the county final] says a lot about the kids. They were bound and determined to get somewhere.”

After being limited to a pair of hits in Sunday’s loss to Post 104, Damascus opened up leads of 3-0 after one inning and 4-0 after 1 1⁄2 innings of play with a collection of eight base hits Monday.

Shane Boyd (3 for 6) and Kevin Molesworth (3 for 6) stroked a pair of infield hits in the first and then were brought home on a two-run double to right field by Alejandro Acevedo. Acevedo then scored on a single by Kevin Story to right field for the three-run advantage.

Then in the second inning, Gilchrist singled up the middle, moved to second on a single by Molesworth, stole third and then scored on a bloop single to shallow center field for a 4-0 lead.

‘‘We started 4-0 [and] we thought we had it,” Gilchrist said.

Garrett starter Greg Beachy, however, settled down and allowed just one more run in his next 5 2⁄3 innings on the mound. The lone run came on an error by third baseman Jake Briley on a hard groundball hit by Molesworth in the sixth inning.

That run gave Post 171 a 5-3 lead after Garrett County closed the gap to 4-3 with two runs in the fourth and one in the fifth. Two of those runs were unearned.

‘‘We just didn’t make our adjustments and he made his and he started making pitches,” said Shane Boyd of Beachy’s resurgence. ‘‘He started mixing a little better once he found out what we liked and we didn’t like.”

Garrett County eventually forged a 5-5 tie in the seventh inning against Post 171 reliever Kyle Blackwell. Beachy drove in one run with a sacrifice fly to right field and Shane Weaver singled to bring home Nick Gregg.

Damascus Post 171 had a chance to take the lead again in the eighth inning when Boyd slapped a single and Gilchrist followed with a double that fell in when Weaver fell and hurt himself in left field.

But Damascus failed to score because of a check-swing groundout to the pitcher by Molesworth, an unsuccessful suicide squeeze attempt by Acevedo and a strikeout by Acevedo. Post 171 placed two more on base in the 10th but couldn’t score.

In the bottom of the 10th, Acevedo struck out the first two batters looking with his curveball but Jason Ashby and Gregg singled and then Reams blasted a line drive to left field to bring home Ashby for the win.

‘‘We had a couple of opportunities but we couldn’t get them home,” Dan Boyd said. ‘‘I wasn’t going to sit back on our heels. We tried to make it happen. We tried but it didn’t work out.”