A team that prides itself on its ability to use all nine innings, Gaithersburg Post 295 had one more stunning display of that ability in the championship game of the Maryland state American Legion baseball tournament last week at McCurdy Field in Frederick.
After falling behind by four runs to Salisbury Post 64, Gaithersburg slowly chipped away, three separate times moving within one run before finally pulling out a stunning, 8-7 win in the bottom of the ninth.
Gaithersburg won the state title for the second consecutive season and clinched a spot in the national tournament. Gaithersburg plays in the Mid-Atlantic regional tournament, which starts today in Boyertown, Pa.
"That's how we did it all tournament -- we never gave up," said Jensen Pupa, the tournament's MVP. "We were always up in the dugout, we knew we could come back."
Throughout the state tournament, Gaithersburg prided itself on its perseverance through any situation, and a grueling final two days, in hot, muggy conditions in Frederick, proved Gaithersburg's mettle. Because of scheduling difficulties caused by several days of rain during the early part of the double-elimination tournament, Gaithersburg had a tougher schedule compared to Salisbury. This despite the fact that Gaithersburg had a better record in the tournament.
After defeating host, Francis Scott Key Post 11, 14-4 last Tuesday, Gaithersburg had to immediately come back and play Salisbury. Salisbury had won the loser's bracket title with a win prior to Gaithersburg's game, and had a four-hour rest before the championship.
Salisbury beat Gaithersburg easily in that game, 14-2, setting up the elimination game the following day.
"We were a little tired," said John Beck, who took the loss against Salisbury. "But I'm not worried about this team, we know what we have to do."
The start was inauspicious, as Gaithersburg fell behind 4-0 in the third inning. But Gaithersburg cut the lead to 4-2, then to 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6 before finally tying the game in the ninth on a home run by Joe Mattes. Mattes blasted the first pitch of the ninth over the right field fence to tie the game. Three batters later, Gaithersburg clinched the win.