Gaithersburg Post 295 catcher Jeff Haeder admitted that he never expected this season to end with his team playing for the Maryland American Legion baseball championship. Still, that didn't do much to soothe Haeder and his teammates late this afternoon, when their late-blooming high hopes came crashing down with a ninth-inning bloop single by the opposing No. 9 hitter.

In a tense state tournament final at McCurdy Field, Mount Airy Post 191 scored in its final at-bat to defeat Gaithersburg, 8-7. Mount Airy won the title in its first-ever trip to the state tournament, going unbeaten in five games.

Gaithersburg would have had to beat Mount Airy twice today to claim the championship--and become the first Montgomery County champion to win the state title since 1952. Mount Airy was responsible for both of Gaithersburg's losses--today's and a 10-9 defeat Saturday.

"We didn't really expect to get all the way here," said Haeder, who will be a senior at Watkins Mill High School this fall. "We thought we could, and once we started winning . . . It's tough, it's just tough."

Haeder had a unique perspective on both of the key plays in the ninth inning. In the top of the inning, with his team down by a run with two outs, he hit an 0-2 pitch down the left field line to drive in Brian McKenna with the tying run.

In the bottom of the inning, Haeder called for the pitch that Mount Airy's Dan Tompkins blooped into right field to score Brian Valichka with the winning run.

"It was a good pitch," Haeder said of the offering by Steve Hannegan, who had relieved starter Dave Ramirez in the sixth inning. "That guy came through. There was nothing we could do about it."

Gaithersburg took a five-run lead in the first inning, with McKenna contributing a three-run homer and Haeder and Phil Fabrizio adding RBI hits. For nearly six innings that lead held up, with Ramirez working out of jams in the first, second, third and fifth innings.

Mount Airy scored three runs in the fourth inning and chased Ramirez in the sixth with two more, on RBI by Joey Bradshaw and Ben Carr.

Gaithersburg then took advantage of two Mount Airy errors to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh. But Mount Airy responded in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single by Dan Tompkins and an RBI double by Billy Bradshaw.