The Greenbelt Post 136 American Legion baseball team has not quite had its usual success this season: For the first time in six years, Greenbelt did not win the Frank Riley League.
But Greenbelt Coach Larry Prange said that he got as much, if not more, than he expected from this season's team.
"This is a pretty young team, playing against older kids," Prange said. "We just had a lot of 15- and 16-year-olds who had to get used to playing against stronger kids. It was about what I expected for us, but next year we'll be really good."
Greenbelt (22-17, 11-13 Frank Riley) will finish either second or third in the league. Chaney Enterprises, from Southern Maryland, won the league and qualified for the eight-team, double-elimination state championship tournament.
Greenbelt, which mainly includes players from DeMatha, was the state champion in 2002 and state runner-up last season. Although Greenbelt won't be in the state tournament this year, the squad did qualify for the National Amateur Baseball Federation senior division regional tournament, held in Waldorf starting next week.
The standout for Greenbelt has been outfielder Anthony Russell, a recent graduate of DeMatha who will play for East Tennessee State next year. Russell is batting .460 with 9 home runs and 40 RBI.
Important to the team's development is the emergence of the young pitching staff. Nick Pearce, a rising senior at DeMatha, pitched a no-hitter last week against St. Mary's, and DeMatha classmates Stephan Weaver and Tim Hammond have added strong performances this season.
The team's youth is reflected in some of the tough losses it has had to endure -- Greenbelt has lost eight one-run games.
"I figured there would be ups and downs," Prange said. "There are games where they play really well all around, then games where they make silly mistakes. I think sometimes they're overwhelmed by the pitching. . . . But for guys playing against a higher level, they've done really well."
Clinton on the Rebound
After a harrowing start, Clinton's American Legion team persevered and has won six of its past 10 games.
As a thin, inexperienced pitching staff struggled to work late into games, Clinton lost its first 17 games of the season. But the pitching staff's emergence, led by recent Gwynn Park graduate Marquis Shanks and rising Bishop McNamara senior Chris Koch, has been the key to the recent success for Clinton (6-21), which has two games left in the season.
"There was a point where the starter would only make it three innings, then we'd bring another one in relief for a few innings, then another to finish out the game," Clinton Coach Matt Cooke said. "Then we'd be out of pitchers for our next game. Lately, the pitchers have been working deeper into games, and that has helped us to start winning some games."
Cooke said the team's brightest prospects are in the outfield. Derrick Baker and Anthony Brown, who will be juniors at Gwynn Park, and Phillip Vaughn, who will be a junior at McNamara, have covered the outfield well, Cooke said.
"They've saved our pitchers a lot of runs, I think," Cooke said. "That's been a big part of this team."