In the top of the fourth inning of the team's American Legion baseball game against Chaney Enterprises on Thursday evening, a Calvert assistant came running into the visiting dugout with a box of new hats emblazoned with the Calvert "C."
The mishmash collection of high school hats, which gave Calvert a motley appearance over the first six games, was tossed aside, and the players finally were unified in uniform.
The new hats proved unlucky, however, as Chaney broke open a scoreless pitchers' duel with a nine-run sixth inning, en route to a 9-0 victory.
"They sure weren't good luck," said second-year coach Carl Smith, who in his first season at Northern led the Patriots to a second-place Southern Maryland Athletic Conference finish. "But we paid for them, so we gotta keep 'em."
Chaney and Calvert have contrasting traditions, but similar goals. Recognized among the best in Maryland, Chaney (8-3) seeks to make its eighth state tournament appearance in 10 years. Calvert (2-5) -- which finished 3-27 last season -- looks to start anew under Smith.
Thursday, the established program won out.
In addition to pitching six shutout innings, Thomas Stone sophomore Kenny Myers provided the offensive spark for Chaney in the sixth inning. After John Kehres walked to lead off the inning, Myers connected with a fastball over the heart of the plate, launching it over the 343-foot sign in right-center field to give Chaney a 2-0 lead.
Northern senior Jake Skillen then struck out Philip Frischolz with two outs, and Calvert appeared to escape the inning trailing by just two runs. But after Calvert catcher Bryan Dockery rolled the ball back toward the mound and the players began to trot off the field, the home-plate umpire ruled that Dockery did not field the third strike cleanly.
Before anyone knew what happened, Frischolz was standing safely at first base.
From there, Chaney rolled. Kyle Gallo welcomed Calvert relief pitcher Justin Sacker with a two-run single to right field. Two batters later, Tim Ritter singled to extend the lead to five runs, and Kehres followed with a three-run home run. Myers capped the scoring spree in the same fashion as he had begun it, with a home run over the right-field fence.
"He's a competitor, and right now he's carrying us," Chaney Coach Ed Glaeser said of Myers, who hit two home runs in a game earlier this week. "He's only a sophomore. I can't ever think when we've had a sophomore as a leader on and off the field."
Though the final score resembled past Calvert failures against Chaney, it paid little justice to Thursday's game -- in particular Skillin's pitching performance. Skillin kept Chaney hitters off balance, combining an accurate breaking pitch and a lively fastball to limit Chaney to just two hits before the sixth inning. The Calvert County player of the year finished the game yielding three runs on four hits while striking out eight.
The moral victory was little reward for Smith.
"No, the score doesn't resemble the game," Smith said. "But losing 1-0 or 9-0 is the same for me. It's a loss, and I don't like losing."
Myers took his success in stride. The right-hander earned his first win of the season, in his second start, and has yet to lose in a handful of starts over a year and a half of varsity and legion baseball.
Yet his focus remains on the team's improvement.
"We've been playing hard," said Myers, who was 3-0 this season for Stone. "We're starting to play like we know how. . . . We're starting to come back to the way we should be playing."
Calvert (2-5) 000 000 0 -- 0
Chaney (8-3) 000 009 x -- 9
Skillin, Sacker and Dockery. Myers, Balenger and Frischolz. HR -- Myers, Ch (6th, one on), Kehres, Ch (6th, two on), Myers, Ch (6th, none on).
CAPTION: Chaney's Timothy Ritter, above, is out in a double play after Calvert pitcher Jake Skillen caught a bunt pop-up and fired the ball to first baseman Tommy Griffin for the force play. At right, Chaney teammates greet winning pitcher Kenny Myers at the plate after he hit his second home run of the sixth inning to conclude a nine-run outburst. "He's a competitor, and right now he's carrying us," Chaney Coach Ed Glaeser said of Myers.