As the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League's first season came to an end, Commissioner Bill Spencer saw his league's win-loss standings as the best sign that things are on the right track.
In the six-team league's 40-game schedule, no squad was worse than 10 games below .500. On the flip side, no team was better than 10 games over .500.
"I was really hoping the won-loss record, from top to bottom, was not going to be too extreme," Spencer said. "We had a very nice equilibrium and balance."
Last week's playoffs were a reflection of that, as the league's third-place team, the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, advanced unbeaten to the championship game to play the Bethesda Big Train, the regular season champion.
The Big Train, which needed to win twice to take the title, was leading 3-0 in the sixth inning of the first game at Blair High, when the game was suspended because of thunderstorms Monday night. Continued rain in Montgomery County flooded Shirley Povich Field and forced the cancellation of the finals.
The league awarded co-championship honors to Bethesda and Silver Spring, two of the Maryland-based league's three Montgomery squads (the Rockville Express is the other). The teams are composed of college baseball players, and the games are played with wooden bats -- a key factor for players hoping to advance to the pros.
The Big Train, which plays at Povich Field, is annually a popular destination for players from around the country, and Thunderbolts founder and president Richard O'Connor said that his team has gained interest as a destination for out-of-area players. "People are noticing us more -- we've already gotten over 100 inquiries for next year," O'Connor said. "I think we were a little worried the competition would not be as strong all around the league, but all of the teams in this league have been very good. The competition has been great."
Both the Big Train and Thunderbolts were formerly members of the Clark Griffith League, another wooden-bat league that featured teams from Northern Virginia. O'Connor said that the current league has been as good, if not better, than the Griffith League. O'Connor said that the league's commitment to community-based teams fit better with his squad -- the Thunderbolts had several local players make an impact this year, including pitcher Jack Lyons (Maret/George Washington University), shortstop Matt Capece (DeMatha), outfielder Alex Udwari (Blake) and infielder Sam Boone (Blair/U-Mass.), among several others.
For Thunderbolts Coach Bobby St. Pierre -- a DeMatha grad who has been associated with the team for five seasons -- the key factor is that the quality of play has been strong.
"This is a step up from what we had been seeing," St. Pierre said. "The overall depth has been amazing."