Returning state champions win division crown with consecutive rallies over Post 104
by James Peters Staff Writer Gazette.net
The Gaithersburg Post 295 baseball team experienced a touch of déj? vu Sunday afternoon, much to the chagrin of its cross-town rival.
The reigning American Legion state champions topped Gaithersburg Post 104 twice on Sunday, 8-4 and 13-11, to win the Montgomery Division crown at Damascus Regional Park.
Six years ago, Post 295 cruised into the Montgomery Division tournament final assured a spot in the Maryland State American Legion baseball tournament. Regardless, Post 295 recorded a two-game championship sweep of Damascus and used the momentum to capture the state title.
"We don't want to be the team that just gets in because we're the host," said Post 295's Zach Skellchock, who closed out the second contest on the mound while also scoring three runs and driving in one. "We want to get in because we won our county."
Top-seeded Post 295, which is hosting this year's state tournament in College Park, found itself in exactly the same position again Sunday when it squared off with the division's No. 3 seed, which entered the final without a loss in the double-elimination tournament, just like Damascus in 2003.
And just like in 2003, Post 295 rallied from an early deficit in the first game to force a second championship contest that it also came from behind to win. It marked the team's ninth division crown since 1990 and sixth in the last seven years.
"We just wanted to win," said Skellchock, "We didn't feel right losing to them in the first game [a 3-0 Post 104 victory in Thursday's winners' bracket]. We just wanted to come out and beat them in both games and come out and be county champs."
Despite failing to capture the division crown, Post 104 (18-10) also qualified for the state tournament to help round out the eight-team field. It will play Post 295 (25-6) in the first round at the University of Maryland's Shipley Field on Friday.
"It's painful," Post 104 manager Joe Stolz said. "That's all I can say. I thought we had them up 4-0 in the sixth inning [of the first game] but they're like the ghoul in the movie, ‘Friday the 13th;' you can't kill them. It's hard to take."
Led by the pitching of ace hurler Nick Riley and hitting of Mike Campos and Ben Silverman, Post 104 grabbed the early four-run lead. Post 295 ace Jimmy Reed (7-1, 1.62 ERA) cruised through the first three innings, but Post 104 broke through on three straight base hits, including a run-scoring single by Campos for a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Back-to-back doubles by Sam Buonomo and Silverman pushed the lead to 2-0, then Campos slapped a two-run single in the fifth.
Post 295 came back to take the lead for good and chased Riley from the game in the sixth inning with six runs on five hits and an error. Ten batters came to the plate, with run-scoring hits by Spencer Pearman, Matt Civetti, Nick Loftus and Dominique Vattuone. Gary Schneider then put the game away with a two-run home run in the top of the seventh.
"It was all hitting," Schneider said. "It was just matter of getting one hit and the team starts rolling. It was definitely a pride thing. We don't want people to say they're already in and they don't deserve to be there."
Post 104 raced out to a 5-0 lead in the second game, capitalizing on two costly errors by Schneider, Post 295's starting hurler, who overthrew first base on two sacrifice bunt attempts. Evan Pappas also successfully worked a suicide squeeze to cap the five-run explosion.
However, Schneider and crew showed resolve with three runs in the top of the second, eventually taking a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Nick Karis led the way with a three-run homer. Post 104 closed to within 12-11 with Skellchock halted the slugfest with a scoreless seventh inning that included a game-ending double play.
"Things just didn't go our way," Post 104 pitcher-infielder Kory Smigocki said. "We started off great but we kind of lost of the intensity. It's tough, but we'll get them back in Friday's state tournament."
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