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Cougars ambushed on title quest

May 28, 2002|BY DAN SPEARS

dans@herald-mail.com

HARMANS, Md. - So this is what Custer felt like.

The Catoctin baseball team got in the first shot against Boonsboro in the Maryland Class 1A state championship game Saturday, and felt good about it.

Then the Warriors hit them from every angle.

When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the Cougars walked away from Joe Cannon Stadium shellshocked 11-3 losers in their first trip to the state championship game.

"Give Boonsboro all the credit," coach Mike Franklin said. "They hit everybody and everything we threw at them today. I don't know what else we could have done. It was all we had."

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The Cougars (14-11) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on a two-strike suicide squeeze by leadoff man Sam Kulceski. The perfectly placed one-out bunt scored Geoff Hillis and turned into a single in the process.

"That's us, that's what we do," Franklin said. "Sam's our best bunter, and I like my chances with him. Even with two strikes."

One out and a hit batter later, Chris LeGore crushed a ball to dead center field. At any other park, Catoctin had a 4-0 lead. At Joe Cannon and its spacious outfield, Boonsboro center fielder Cody Hanes made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch to end the inning.

"I hoped (the bunt) would give us momentum and get us going," LeGore said. "I don't know what to think. I don't know how he caught that."

The Cougars never recovered. They thought they'd have one out and a runner on second in the bottom of the third, but a sacrifice bunt hit a hole in the infield and jumped over Hillis' glove for a single.

"Sometimes, the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it literally doesn't bounce your way," Franklin said.

It eventually led to a six-run inning that knocked out starter T.J. Eiker and forced another 18 pitches from LeGore in relief. The hot-hitting Warriors never turned off their bats from there.

Jason Johnson's two-run homer in the sixth gave Catoctin one final cheer in a magical postseason, but the deficit was too far out of hand.

"We've been down in every game," said LeGore, whose team had won three straight postseason games in its final at-bat. "We just couldn't do it today."

Still, trophies from the program's first region championship and state runner-up finish will let them know they did come back enough times in 2002.

"Losing here, you can compare it to a funeral. You can mourn and be upset, or you can see it as a celebration of life," Franklin said. "We could be upset. Or we could celebrate what we've done.

"We finished second out of 45 teams. I'll look at it as Door Number 2."

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