As his teammates lined up to receive their Maryland 3A baseball championship medals — earned in a 5-1 victory Saturday night over top-seeded Towson — Chesapeake’s Adrian Gonzalez rushed back to the dugout to grab a plastic basketball hoop and a small rubber ball.
This celebration was planned a week earlier, before the Cougars had secured their spot in the title game. And it defined a team, led by first-year coach Jeff Young, that has made it to the top by having fun.
Young and his staff — which bought the basket — created an enjoyable dynamic that helped the Cougars (20-3-1) bring home their first state title since 2014.
“He just did something unspeakable with a unique group,” said senior Kyle Hickson, who went 2 for 3 and scored the first run for Chesapeake. “The main thing was, ‘You give me what I want, and I give you what you want.’ And we gave him what he wanted, and we got what we wanted and had fun.”
Young, a former Chesapeake player and an assistant the previous nine years, built off the work of previous coaches Ken King and Jim Simms — both of whom won state titles with Chesapeake and were in attendance for Saturday’s game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
“We’re so proud of him. He deserves everything, what we gave him today,” said senior pitcher Nick Karls, who had six strikeouts in 6⅔ innings. “He’s my favorite coach I’ve ever had. I’m glad we were able to do this for him.”
Young said one of the keys to the team being successful this season was his players’ willingness to listen. But from top to bottom, the players said they would never forget the fun the group had together. Having walk-up songs was a particular favorite for Hickson, who strode to the plate to “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” by Kanye West.
Chesapeake fell behind in the first inning against Towson (17-3) but scored five unanswered runs to become the state champion.
“Right now it’s hard to think about because I just wouldn’t let myself think about it,” Young said. “Hopefully in a couple days it’ll sink in. I’m just proud.”