More than three weeks after Maryland’s public school baseball champions were crowned at Ripken Stadium, a group of the state’s premier players woke up before 4 a.m. to catch a flight to Oklahoma for the Heartland Classic.
Featuring 11 local players and three All-Met selections, Team Maryland played two games per day last week against other all-star teams from Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. The team won four of its six games in pool play, then captured its first Heartland Classic championship with a 4-0 victory over Team Texas on Saturday evening at the University of Oklahoma.
“It was a blast,” Chesapeake graduate Chris Ruszin said of the event. “I had a blast the whole time, from staying with a host family, playing with the best guys in Maryland. It was just a lot of fun.”
Ruszin, a Towson signee, hit an RBI double in the first inning of the title game while fellow All-Met and Atholton graduate Brady Acker (George Mason) scored two runs. Four runs proved to be more than enough for starter Taylor Bloom, a Riverdale Baptist graduate. The Maryland signee held Texas to three hits in the title game, needing just 69 pitches to work through seven innings.
“I was just pounding the strike zone, and they were being really aggressive,” said Bloom, who was named the event’s Most Valuable Player. “They were just rolling over it. My defense really helped out a lot.”
The win marked the end of an exciting and exhausting week in Oklahoma for Team Maryland. Players were able to spend time with teammates, new and old, while also getting to know some of the locals. Five families volunteered to help host the Maryland players, giving them a home away from home and even helping two players make the local news, courtesy of a friendly bet.
On the field, the senior-heavy group competed against some of the nation’s top talent, an important stepping stone for those who soon will be playing in college. Bloom said he and his teammates made a statement.
“I think coming out here with the best guys in Maryland and competing against the other best states really showed that we can compete, too,” he said.
The team was constructed by the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches. In addition to Acker, Bloom and Ruszin, the roster included the following local players: North Point’s Justin Craft, Patuxent’s Tyler Crouse, Gaithersburg’s Nick DeCarlo, Chesapeake’s John Drexel and Drew Spinnenweber, Poolesville’s Robbie Metz and Thayer Seely, and Arundel’s Syeed Mahdi.
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