Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Baseball: Gaithersburg Post 104 looking to make a ‘state’-ment

Legion team trying to win its first-ever state title

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After three straight years of futility in the championship game, the Gaithersburg Post 104 American Legion baseball team finally broke through and captured the Montgomery County tournament title with a 9-1 victory over Damascus Post 171 Sunday at Damascus Regional Park — it’s first county title since 2001.

The team’s next task, winning this weekend’s double-elimination Maryland State American Legion tournament, is even more daunting considering Post 104 (20-11 record) has never won a state title and will face a solid field, including Friday’s first-round opponent, Greenbelt Post 136 (27-5), which is comprised largely of players from baseball-rich high-school programs Eleanor Roosevelt (24-2, 4A state champions) and DeMatha.

Post 104, which swept its three county tournament opponents by a combined 13-1 score, doesn’t plan to change a thing, however.

‘‘We have to use the same formula we put together in the county tournament — good pitching, good defense and timely hitting,” said Gaithersburg catcher Rick Phillips, whose team will play Greenbelt at 12:30 p.m. at Thomas Stone High in Waldorf Friday.

Kevin Brady (5-2, 1.77 ERA, 90 strikeouts) and Bobby Kim (4-2, 4.79 ERA) took care of the ‘‘good pitching,” working a pair of shutouts among three dominant complete games in wins of 1-0, 3-0 and 9-1 over Gaithersburg Post 295 (21-16), Laurel Post 60 (19-11) and Damascus (22-18), respectively, to sweep through the county tournament.

Those right-handed hurlers combined with Michael Rudin (4-0, save, 2.53 ERA) and Matt Allred (2-3, save, 2.74 ERA) among others for a solid 3.38 team earned-run average. Brady and Rudin combined for 10 strikeouts and allowed one unearned run in an 8-1 win over Greenbelt back on June 16.

‘‘We just need to have the same intensity,” Kim said. ‘‘As long as we know that we can win and that we should win, we’ll play at that level. All we need to do is play the way we are playing.”

Offensively, Post 104 manager Joe Stolz, who is in his second year with the team, has received contributions up and down his unselfish lineup that relies heavily on bunting as an extra weapon throughout the game. The squad batted a combined .308 with 64 extra-base hits, including 18 home runs and 10 triples.

Leading that attack are Kim (.383, 6 home runs, 22 RBI), Phillips (.427, 3 HR, 29 RBI), Brady (.344, 12 RBI), Michael Campos (.347, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 17 stolen bases) and Dennis Schoonmaker (.306, 2 HR, 16 RBI).

‘‘The team was very cohesive and everybody got along real well,” Stolz said. ‘‘I think everybody had fun. We played good defense, executed the bunt, ran the bases well and hit the ball better than I expected.”

The tournament’s other qualifiers are Salisbury Post 64 (31-7), Garrett County Post 71⁄214 (18-11), Pasadena Post 277 (24-16), Cecil County Post 15⁄135⁄194, Frederick Post 11 and host Chaney Enterprises. The tournament will be played at both Thomas Stone and Leonardtown high schools this weekend.

Salisbury captured the Eastern Shore District by winning two of three tournament games from Princess Anne 94 after compiling a 13-0 record in league play. Pasadena closed out its fifth straight title with a win Monday night after squandering a huge lead in the Anne Arundel County League.

Pasadena, which will play Cecil County, the North Central District champions, Friday, has struggled in recent state appearances but it does own a win over Salisbury this summer en route to capturing Salisbury’s Firecracker 4th of July tournament.

Frederick won the season series with Mt. Airy Post 191 to capture the Western Maryland title and it will face Garrett County, the Mountain District winner, who defeated Damascus Post 171, 6-5, in 10 innings in a state play-in game Monday. The Mountain District is comprised of just two teams.