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PONY leaguers enjoy fun in games

August 14, 2000

PONY leaguers enjoy fun in games



By BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer


WASHINGTON, Pa. - It's all come down to fun 'n' games for the Hagerstown PONY League All-Stars.

They have to have more fun while playing games so they took time out to play games to have some fun.

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Playing in the PONY League World Series is nerve-wracking business and sometimes the nerves get the best of even the best players. On Monday, Hagerstown tried to release the pressure valve by getting out for some fun in the sun in between some light work to get ready for today's 8 p.m. matchup against defending-champion West Covina (Calif.) in the lower draw's winners' bracket final.

"I hope the nervousness is over. I know we had a couple of kids who were really nervous (on Sunday)," Hagerstown manager Rick Suder said. "All you can do is let them step on the field for the first time. You could tell there were still jitters, but all you can do is work them hard and get them to the point where it's just another game against another team."

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The hard work came in the form of a two-hour session at a local batting cage and pizzeria for a working lunch. After teeing off on pitching machines, Hagerstown split for some relaxation as part of the team went swimming while others elected to go play miniature golf and ride go-karts.

When the fun was over, Hagerstown went back to Lewis Hays PONY Field to watch the upper brackets' games to shake some more jitters while scouting the opposition it could face if they are fortunate enough to play in Saturday's Series final.

Many of Hagerstown's players admitted to be jittery about playing on Sunday so the afternoon away from baseball was a welcomed diversion.

"This gives us a rest and allows us to swing the bats will help us a bit," Catcher Luther Davis said. "Nerves will get better. We know what's on the line and that we have to play hard. It was just a normal game."

It's easy to say that now. Hagerstown needed some late heroics with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat host Washington (Pa.) 5-3 in the opener. Each phase of the game, starting with Tim Hellinger's second-inning two-run home run which helped Hagerstown break the ice.

"I was nervous in the beginning but it was a gut feeling about the first game because it was in the World Series," Davis said. "Then after we got that home run, I think we settled down."

Nick Adenhart had been pitching a flawless game until allowing a three-run homer in the top of the fifth to allow Washington to get ahead. But instead of fading, Hagerstown came back with a run in the bottom of the inning which became a huge turning point for Hagerstown.

"I was jittery but once I got into the batters' box I just relaxed and treated it just like any other at bat. You just step to the plate and just try to make contact like any other time," said left fielder Ben Jordan who hit the sacrifice fly that tied the game at 3-3. "I think it was big because we tied them so quickly. We didn't let the momentum build. We tied them right away and took it away from them. I think having the day off helps. We are able to relax and get into the batting cage and work on some things. We can have fun and get ready to play."

Against West Covina, Hagerstown will need to put its top game on display. Josh Mitchell will be on the mound against the team which defeated Chatham (Ill.) 10-0 in six innings in its opener.

"I think we'll see a different team tonight," Suder said. "The sticks will settle down and will come alive. (They are) the defending champs but I don't know how many of their players are back from last year. Still, that is a quality baseball area. They play from nine to 11 months a year. That's not a problem. We don't dwell on it and just have to work harder."

The jitters may be gone, but the difficulty remains in Hagerstown's quest for the PONY title. So does the confidence.

"I don't think we'll be as nervous this time," said utilityman T.J. Bowser. "It won't be easy, but I think we can win this thing."

NOTES: Despite his 14 strikeouts, Adenhart was still a way off from the tournament record. Carlos Rodriguez of Carolina, P.R., fanned 19 in a game in 1972. ... Hagerstown is making its ninth appearance at the PONY League World Series, its seventh in Washington ... Fans can see pictures of each game by logging on at www.ponyworldseries.com.

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