Led by Joey Moran, who was named to the all-tournament team, the Montgomery County Baseball Association (MCBA) Patriots placed eighth at the AAU Junior Olympic 13-and-under national championships July 24-30 in Orlando, Fla.
"I'm very happy with the way our team played," said Oliver Riggs, who coached the team with Dean O'Neal and Pete Conto. "We knocked off some pretty good teams and proved we could play with anybody."
The Patriots began the tournament with a 10-0 win over the Kingsport (Tenn.) Volunteers. Mike Schmidt went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBI and Moran gave up three hits in five innings and drove in two runs. Scotty Blackwood had a two-run single.
The team dropped to 1-1 with a 7-2 loss to the Connecticut Wolfpack. Jay Riggs drove in one run with a suicide squeeze and pitched four strong innings, but the Patriots committed seven errors and gave up seven unearned runs. Schmidt went 2 for 3 and Roger Chaufournier had an RBI single to center. Ben Maggin pitched three strong innings.
The Patriots ended the first round with a 4-1 loss to the Piedmont (N.C.) Panthers. Moran pitched two innings and went 2 for 3 with a double and Ryan Hannigan hit an RBI single to right. Ryan Fitzgibbons, Alex Udwari and Brad Williams each singled and Matt Montgomery pitched four shutout innings.
Following the game, the players braced for the worst. With a 1-2 record in the first round, the Patriots thought they were headed home. But thanks to a tiebreaker -- fewest runs allowed -- the Patriots advanced to the second round as the wild card.
"I was very surprised that we made it to the second round," said Riggs, whose team gave up two earned runs in the first round. "I told the boys all they can ask for in life is a second chance. That's what they got. Now, they have to take advantage of it."
The Patriots did just that, upsetting the top seed Connecticut Blaze, 8-1. Montgomery (two RBI) gave up four hits in six innings and Chris Crosby went 2 for 3 with one RBI. Moran and Kevin Conto each had two RBI and Griffin Finan pitched a scoreless seventh.
The celebration did not last long as the team lost to the Florida Fire, 8-3. Blackwood, Moran and Finan pitched well and Schmidt went 2 for 3. Hannigan had a two-run single and picked a runner off at first base. Moran, Chaufournier and Udwari also played well.
The Patriots advanced to the third round with a 6-5 win over the Seattle Hurricanes. Chaufournier went 2 for 3 with two RBI and Udwari drove in the winning run with a pinch-hit single in the sixth. Riggs pitched four strong innings and had an RBI double and Blackwood earned his first save. Tim Dodd pitched one strong inning, Hannigan had an RBI single in the fourth and Schmidt went 2 for 3.
"Mike Schmidt probably hit close to .500 for the tournament," said Joe Udwari, who kept the team's scorebook. "He was swinging a hot bat and he was always on base."
One of the team's biggest wins came July 29 against the Benecia (Calif.) Baysox. Trailing 5-1 after four innings, the Patriots scored eight runs in the fifth and won, 10-6. Conto and Peter Bolac each drove in two runs and Chaufournier, Finan, Hannigan and Moran each had RBI singles. Moran pitched four strong innings to pick up the win and Blackwood walked with the bases loaded. Montgomery also pitched well.
"Joey is a very good pitcher," said Riggs. "He has a good fastball, a devastating curve and he throws two types of changes. He's the guy you want in there when your back is up against the wall."
Later that day, the Patriots lost to the Connecticut Wolfpack for the second time in four days. Maggin gave up one earned run in three innings and Schmidt went 2 for 4 as the Patriots fell, 5-2. Fitzgibbons had five strikeouts in three innings and Chaufournier had a two-run single. Moran, Maggin, Finan and Crosby also hit the ball well.
The Patriots dropped another one-run game to Team Connecticut, 8-7. Chaufournier and Dodd each had two RBI and Riggs and Moran pitched well. Schmidt, Conto, Udwari, Hannigan, Riggs and Bolac had singles and Hannigan had one RBI.
The team's season came to an end with an 11-9 loss to the East Coast (Mass.) Pirates on July 30. Hannigan went 2 for 3 with a triple and two RBI and Maggin went 3 for 3 with a double, triple and one RBI. Fitzgibbons, Schmidt (two RBI) and Hannigan pitched well and Chris Thomas (1 for 4, two RBI) played good defense in center field.
Edmund Bushnell walked three times and had one RBI and Udwari went 2 for 5 with one RBI. Justin O'Neale, Aaron Shin and Brad Williams also played well.
"In hindsight, our pitching was real good," said Riggs, whose team placed 20th last season. "We lost it on defense and baserunning. Our kids definitely had the talent to win it all. We just couldn't put it all together."