In years past, the Chaney Enterprises offense has had the talent to spray the baseball all over the field. This season, Ed Glaeser's American Legion team sometimes is content to hit it just a few feet.
"We haven't had very good offense," said Glaeser, whose team features only three players with a batting average above .300. "We've been practicing our bunting game. . . . I think we practice more than anyone in the league."
That practice paid off Thursday, when No. 5 hitter Tim Ritter came up with the bases loaded. Chaney successfully executed Glaeser's "bases-loaded special," running the count up to 3-2 and then bunting while the runner on third was on the move to earn a 5-4 victory over Design Corps at Thomas Stone High School.
The win improved the Waldorf team to 17-7, two games behind first-place Greenbelt in the loss column.
On Thursday, even power-hitting cleanup batter Nick Vitielliss was instructed to lay one down with no outs and runners on first and second.
"We ask [him] to bunt like every three years," Glaeser said. "Nick's a team player. He knew exactly why I put [the bunt] on. If I had three or four Nicks, we'd be in good shape."
Chaney has had to rely on perfecting these little things -- and defense -- to win ballgames.
All of the team's players were hitting above .300 last summer. This season, only Mike Finamore, Vitielliss and Kenny Myers can make that claim.
"This year we've had to manufacture runs," Glaeser said. "This team can play well and lose."
Flexibility Pays Off for Calvert
Coach Carl Smith is big on change.
His Calvert American Legion team doesn't have a set lineup -- even during key situations -- and Smith shuttles players out of and into the game at any time.
"You've got to keep [the players] interested," Smith said.
The philosophy worked Thursday, when he substituted four players in the sixth inning of a close game against first-place Greenbelt. The result: Calvert ended up defeating the Prince George's County team, 6-5, making the race for first place between Chaney and Greenbelt even closer.
"Anybody can play any position at any time," Smith said. "The same guys should be able to play three or four positions. . . . There's a lot of rotation on our team."
Calvert is out of playoff contention, but times are definitely changing. Smith and his team currently boast a 10-11 record, which is a vast improvement over last year's 3-27 mark.
Smith attributed the improvement to attracting good and developing players back to American Legion baseball and allowing everyone to play.
"A lot of coaches wouldn't make the changes," he said, "but I believe everyone should have a chance to play."
Calvert will meet Greenbelt two more times before the big Greenbelt-Chaney showdown.
CAPTION: Kenny Myers, shown playing for Thomas Stone High, is one of only three players hitting better than .300 for Chaney Enterprises. "We haven't had very good offense," said Coach Ed Glaeser.