Thursday, July 17, 2008

It is post time for Legion baseball County tournament begins and finishes this week

Post 295 is 2 –0 and will play Sunday at 12 noon at Damascus Regional Park. Come out catch the game. Post 295 beat Post 41, 10-0 on Tuesday and beat Post 171, 3-2 in a well played game tonight. Post 268 lost to Damascus on Tuesday leaving, Post 268 and Post 41 to play in the loser bracket, the winner of that game will play Post 171 on Saturday. Post 295 will have to be beaten twice to lose the tournament. The State Tournament begins Friday, Aug 1 in Frederick at McCurdy Field.

Bob O....

It’s post time for Legion baseball County tournament begins and finishes this week
by James Peters | Staff Writer

For the past five years a team from Gaithersburg has walked away with the Montgomery Division tournament crown and with it a trip to the Maryland State American Legion tournament, which this year is being played in Frederick from July 25-30.

Considering how strong Gaithersburg Post 295 (31-3) has played this season — it dropped just one game in league competition (25-1) — that trend could certainly be extended for another year as the county’s four-team, double-elimination American Legion baseball tournament begins and concludes this week.

Of course, possibly capturing a county championship is nothing new for Post 295, which won four straight from 2003-06 before having that run snapped last year by Gaithersburg Post 104, which failed to qualify for postseason play this summer with a 7-17 record.

The rest of the field consists of No. 2 seed Damascus (17-10), No. 3 seed and surprise Wheaton (15-12) and No. 4 seed Cissel Saxon Post 41 (13-14). The tournament began Tuesday in games played too late for this edition and runs through Sunday with the championship game slated for noon at Damascus Regional Park.

‘‘We’ve been pitching well all year keep so we need to keep doing that for sure,” Post 295 manager Rick Price said. ‘‘And our defense has been very good so if we do those couple of things we’ll be OK.”

Saying Gaithersburg, which won state titles in 2003 and ’04, has been pitching well is an understatement. The team is holding opponents to an average of 1.26 runs per game and has struck out 225 strikeouts in 222 innings. Charlie Cononie (7-0, save, 0.35 ERA), Dominick Vattuone (6-0, save, 0.35 ERA), Mike Loeb (7-0, 2.70 ERA) and Kevin Johnson (3-0, 1.24 ERA) have powered a staff that has seen seven pitchers post 17 or more innings.

Offensively, Post 295 finished the regular season with a combined .364 batting average that has helped produce 320 runs or 9.4 per game. Every player who has recorded at least 36 at-bats was hitting above .300, led by Matt Civetti (.459, 36 RBI), Spencer Pearman (.412, 32 runs, 24 RBI), Jeff Flax (.366, 40 runs, 25 RBI), and Nick Loftus (.400, 31 RBI).

Those impressive numbers helped translate into a regular-season sweep of the three other playoff teams, including Tuesday’s first-round opponent, Cissel Saxon. The team’s only league loss was a 4-1 setback to Sandy Spring Post 68 on June 12 after Post 295 had scored an 18-1 victory over Post 68 two days before.

‘‘295 just kicked our butts as they have just about everybody else,” Saxon manager Scott Dunlap said, ‘‘but I think we’re peaking at the right time. It all depends if we hit. You’ve got to hit in this league. Pitching and defense can only take you so far. ... If our sticks are on, we can hang with anybody in the league. Taylor Schallhorn, Tommy Cunningham and Brandon Grove are the heart of our order.”

Dunlap’s squad entered the final week with a chance to capture the third seed but two wins by Wheaton Sunday against Post 104, including a forfeit as Post 104’s pitcher in the second game of the doubleheader was ejected for hitting five batters, leaving Gaithersburg with just eight players, gave Post 268 an insurmountable two-game lead. Saxon, however, won eight of its final 11 games after opening the season with five losses in its first six games.

Damascus also has a deep pitching staff to work with, including a starting rotation that consists of Schallhorn, Cunningham, Ryan Rehman, Paul Graves and Travis Hart.

While Saxon comes in on a hot streak, Damascus dropped its final two games to continue its streaky season that included four straight victories prior to Saturday’s losses to Post 295 and Laurel Post 60. The squad also enjoyed an eight-game winning streak earlier in the season. Post 171, which last won a county title in 2000, is paced offensively by A.J. Bowman, Lee Hertel, Tom Gilchrist, Alejandro Colon-Acevedo and Mike Serafinas and on the mound by Drew Hoffmaster and Kyle Blackwell.

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