The revised American Legion baseball format has resulted in an early, four-way race in the Montgomery County division.
With Montgomery teams playing in their own six-team league this summer, Cissel Saxon, Damascus and Wheaton are battling for the lead.
Cissel Saxon has a pitching force in Tyler Wolfram. Wolfram, who attends Brown University, is a 1984 graduate of Springbrook High School.
Wolfram won his first three games. In a 14-4 rout of Gaithersburg, Wolfram struck out 14 batters. He had 28 strikeouts in 20 innings and two complete games.
"He is the best pitcher in the league by far," said Post 41 Coach Bob McNey. "He's awesome, smart and throws the right pitches at the opportune time. I believe that he'll be drafted after his junior year of college. He's just that unbelievable."
But McNey expects a hectic summer, with the teams playing two 10-game half-seasons.
"It's so early," McNey said. "It's going to be nip and tuck all the way. In a 10-game schedule you never know what's going to happen. All our kids are good, scrappy young players."
Cissel Saxon appears to have the best pitcher, but Wheaton has the league's hottest hitter in Jeff Bonner. Bonner, who will be going into his senior year at Rockville, was batting .590 with two triples before he sprained an ankle last week. He was expected to be out for two weeks.
"I haven't changed my batting stance," said Bonner. "I've been more selective with choosing my hits. I used to let the first pitch go by, but I (swing at) it now if it's in the strike zone."
Wheaton probably should have been tied for first with Cissel Saxon and Damascus, but Rockville, winless at the time, upset Post 268 last week, 13-7. Earlier this season, Wheaton trailed Gaithersburg, 6-1, after five innings but won, 11-7. Mike Horan, Andy Nicholas and Bonner are three prime reasons opposing teams have trouble containing Wheaton.
"All the players on our team are the key to our success," said Coach Herb Rutledge, who's been coaching Post 268 for 18 years. "They're all good players. It's hard to tell with boys of this age how well we will fare. It's a good-hitting team but we aren't consistent. When they do hit, they do it well."
After early-season play, Damascus was hitting .350 as a team and averaging 7.5 runs a game. Damascus is led by Mike Dennison, a relief pitcher and outfielder; George Quinn, Andy Malloy and Jody Perel.