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Baseball notebook: Paint Branch’s Smith twins find the healing power of baseball

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Paint Branch twin brothers Will and David Smith played with heavy hearts through the beginning of baseball season for Paint Branch. But the seniors have played well in the wake of their father, Michael Smith, passing away Sunday night after a battle with colon cancer. He was 51.

Paint Branch Coach Tommy Rey gave the Smith brothers the option of playing in the Panthers’ games this week, sitting them out or rescheduling the games. The decision, though, was easy.

“They wanted to play,” Rey said. “It was one of those things where they said their father would have wanted them to play.”

On Monday, Will doubled twice and David doubled once in an 8-3 victory over Gaithersburg. Then on Tuesday, each brother hit a two-run home run in a 14-4 victory over Seneca Valley.

Rey said the Panthers (2-1) have dedicated their season to Michael Smith and players are wearing maroon wristbands with inscribed with his initials and a black patch. He is writing the boys’ jersey numbers, 12 and 22, on each scorecard.

A service will be held for Michael Smith on April 14 at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church in Northwest at 2 p.m.. . .

Whitman senior Michael Flack, who pitches and plays shortstop, might be the best returning player in Montgomery County. But it is the return of another key player – senior Ryan McGill – that could make the Vikings a contender for their first regional title.

After missing all of last season because of a broken foot sustained while playing for Whitman’s club hockey team, McGill is back in the lineup and has helped the Vikings to a 3-0 start.

McGill has thrown six shutout innings in both of his starts, including a 5-0 victory over Damascus on Tuesday.

“He’s a leader – he’ll hit fifth or sixth and play first when he’s not pitching,” Whitman Coach Joe Cassidy said. “He was 4-0 as a sophomore and started our playoff game against Gaithersburg. He’s just very poised. … He’s not going to wow you, but the next thing you know, it’s 2-1 us and he’s thrown six innings and thrown 80 pitches.”

While Whitman hopes to challenge perennial contender Quince Orchard in the Maryland 4A West Region, Cassidy said keeping his players’ focus has been easy.

“Since we’ve never won anything, guys aren’t like, ‘This is ours and we don’t have to work hard,’ ” Cassidy said. “We have like two trophies in 50 years since the school’s been open and they are for division wins.” . . .

This will be the last season coaching baseball for Spalding’s Jeff Palumbo, a longtime local coach whose next job won’t include hitting fungos or giving steal signs. Palumbo has been hired as principal at Pallotti High in Laurel.

“When I left [being athletic director at] DeMatha, I went up to Towson Catholic and was assistant principal for five years, so I’ve been working toward this,” said Palumbo, who in his first season last year guided Spalding to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title. “I’ll miss the baseball, but I’m looking forward to it. I’ll stay involved in the summertime.”

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