Cheverly and Oxon Hill appear headed for a season-ending showdown that will decide which team in the Prince George's American Legion baseball league will move on to the state tournament.
Cheverly Post 108 has been the dominant team in Legion ball the past 30 years under the coaching leadership of Bumps Vaughn. This summer, Vaughn's team, which includes three all-Metropolitan players, wants to make up for an early departure from last year's playoffs dealt out by Oxon Hill Post 248, the eventual state champion.
But Oxon Hill got the first strike in this season, defeating Cheverly, 2-0. The teams have met twice more with Cheverly winning both times, including a 6-2 decision on Monday. The two teams will probably finish one-two in the league, which should mean a tournament rematch.
Matt Boyd from Bowie High, Gary Pyne from DeMatha and Bruce Ford out of DuVal are Cheverly's all-Met players.
Ford, an outfielder and pitcher, leads Cheverly's hitting, batting around .400, and was a winner in his first pitching effort. Playing in his first season of Legion baseball, Ford is more than satisfied with the way he's been making contact with the ball.
"I've been more patient at the plate," Ford said. "I just wait for the right pitch so I can get a good hit. The pitching is better competition than I'm used to seeing, but I'm adapting."
Post 108 has perhaps the best pitching in the league. The three starters -- Jimmy Terill, Jimmy Tiller and Ford, combined for a 7-0 record as Cheverly got off to an 8-1 start. Terrill was 5-0.
"The pitching has been pretty good," saidd Vaughn. "In games in which we play good defense, we do all right, but when we don't, we look just like everybody else. Overall, we do have a pretty good team."
Cheverly may have the best pitching staff but Oxon Hill has an ace in Corey Gesell, who won his first four games with only one earned run. Gesell, however, is available to pitch for Oxon Hill only on weekends. He attends summer school at Virginia Tech and comes home weekends.
This spring, Gesell posted a 5-1 record for VPI. For Oxon Hill, Gesell has pitched a no-hitter and a three-hitter. He shut out Cheverly. Post 248 won seven of its first 10 games.
Dave Hamlett and Paul Ludwig also have pitched for Oxon Hill, but Gesell's weekday unavailability and Kim Wilkerson suffering a pulled muscle and tendinitis in his arm have hurt.
"I am satisfied with my pitching staff except I can't use my best pitcher against Cheverly anymore," said Oxon Hill Coach Jim Bucci. "It hurts the team that we can't use our best pitcher. I'm just pointing our team toward the playoffs. Cheverly is the team to beat in our league."
Oxon Hill has come from behind to win a number of early season games. Post 248 trailed Mayo, 5-0, and won, 6-5. Greenbelt held a 1-0 lead through six innings but Oxon Hill came up with two runs in the seventh to win. Wilber Baldwin, James Hodges, Steve Wright, Chris Keeler and Steve Piazza have been hitting pretty well. Hodges leads the team in batting with a .400 average.
"It's nothing batting around .400," says Hodges. "I've changed my stance and choked up about three inches on the bat so I can hit better."