Sometimes in summer baseball leagues a team's coach can show too much confidence, some would say favoritism, toward a player he coached during the spring. Certainly a few eyebrows were raised when Calvert American Legion Coach Carl Smith inserted Brian Naecker -- a Northern High player for Smith whose average hovered in the .200s all spring -- into the leadoff spot.
But Naecker has spent the early part of the summer making Smith look like a genius. Tuesday, Naecker went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and the game-winning hit as the Calvert team upset host Design Corps Post 82, 7-4.
The win improved Calvert County's record to 5-5, a far cry from last year's 3-27 mark. And by beating the Design Corps team on its home field at La Plata High, Calvert made a strong statement about how much it has improved.
"We can play with any team in this league," said pitcher Travis Mister, who tossed a complete game to earn the victory. "I guess you could say it was a statement game."
The same could be said of Naecker's season -- the center fielder is now batting over .500.
"I have no clue," Naecker said when asked to explain his turnaround. "I'm just in a groove right now."
Calvert County actually trailed Tuesday's game, 4-2, entering the sixth inning, with Naecker having scored his team's only two runs.
Naecker's second run of the game, in the third inning, followed a rather strange play. With one out, he lined a hit to the center field fence. Design Corps center fielder Darren Peterson tracked the ball down, then got his leg stuck in the fence and had to make the throw from his knees.
Naecker made it to third and scored on teammate Chad Hall's grounder to shortstop.
Before the sixth inning, T.J. Thompson, the 16-year-old starting pitcher for the Design Corps team, had managed to hold the lead despite walking six batters and yielding two hits in the previous five innings.
But Thompson allowed a walk and a single to start the sixth, and his manager, Dan Devitis, pulled him in favor of Sean Dunaway.
Calvert County's Jason Connell greeted Dunaway with a double that drove in a run. Mister grounded to third for the first out of the inning, but Bryan Dockery blooped a double to center field to bring in the tying run.
That brought up Naecker, who singled to center to bring in Connell and Dockery and give the Calvert team a two-run lead. Calvert added a run in the ninth.
"He's got a good eye, he works the pitchers, and he sets the tone," Smith said of Naecker. "He really has the whole package for a leadoff hitter, which puts a lot of pressure on the other team."
All four of the Design Corps team's runs were driven in by Lee Quade, who hit a three-run home run in the first inning and added a sacrifice fly in the fifth. Other than that, Mister was strong, and he appeared to get better as the game went on, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced.
Calvert County 101 004 1 -- 7 7 0
Design Corps Post 82 300 010 0 -- 4 7 3
Mister and Dockery; Thompson, Dunaway (6), Devitis (6) and Yates. HR -- Quade.
CAPTION: Darren Peterson, center fielder for Design Corps Post 82, slides into first base ahead of a throw to Calvert County's Nicholas Karwoski. A four-run sixth-inning rally enabled Calvert to even its record at 5-5.
CAPTION: Calvert's Jordan Marshall, right, greets Nicholas Karwoski after he scores a run. Pitcher Travis Mister called Calvert's victory a "statement."