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In world of MVAL baseball, predictability doesn't exist

April 18, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

If the last four days have proven anything, it is that Monocacy Valley Athletic League baseball is anything but predictable.

Exhibit A - Middletown, prior to Wednesday the league's last-place team, scored 10 first-inning runs in a 10-0 five-inning stunner against Williamsport, currently tied atop the conference standings with South Hagerstown after the Rebels' victory Thursday.

"Middletown loses two games (in the two previous days), gets hammered by South (an 8-1 loss Tuesday), and they come play the top team in the league and score 10 runs in the first inning," Wildcats coach Rod Steiner said.

"We know it's a tough league. I said before the season 13-5 would look good, and I still think it will."

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Exhibit B - Catoctin, in sole possession of second Wednesday morning, falls 15-2 to a suddenly-streaking North Hagerstown squad that afternoon. That loss prompted Cougars coach Mike Franklin to say afterward, "It's a great conference, and if you don't come ready to play, you're going to get your butt kicked."

Exhibit C - Boonsboro, 4-1 a week ago, dropped three straight games to Brunswick, South and Walkersville and finds itself at .500.

"We've been very flat the last couple games, and if you're not ready to play, you're going to go home with your tail between your legs," Warriors coach Fred Kreiger said.

Both Steiner and Kreiger pointed toward the weather as one reason for the sudden tightening of the league standings. Last week's near-total washout, combined with teams already needing to reschedule rainouts from earlier this season, led to the MVAL adopting a Monday-Wednesday-Friday weekly schedule.

No longer can a team lean on one star pitcher, what with the new schedule meaning an ace may only take the mound once every three games.

"Playing three games a week will magnify the need for three good pitchers," Kreiger said. "It will create some problems if you get someone out there on the hill who hasn't been out there for a while. It's a great equalizer, really. It can help teams that are more in the middle of the pack, with the pitching matchups."

"Evey week's a tough week," Steiner said. "It seems every team has one good pitcher, and the weather dictates how you use your pitching rotation. Sometimes you throw your best guy against (an opponent's) third starter because of how the rain has affected the pitching rotations."

Getting their teams ready to play every other day, or on three consecutive days as many MVAL squads did this week, is another challenge for league coaches.

"I think all of us try different things, but I believe the kids have to get themselves ready," Kreiger said. "We didn't feel our kids were ready to play Monday (an 11-1 loss to South), and we couldn't figure it out. It's got to come from inside. It's not like football, where ... Knute Rockne gives the 'win one for the Gipper' speech.

"You're gonna have a point in your schedule where you play nine games in 14 days. It always comes down to that in this area. This year, it came a little sooner because we lost a whole week."

Steiner tries to keep things in perspective.

"Next week, if we get two of three, we'll be happy," he said. "It seems everybody has three-game weeks, and you'd like a sweep, but sometimes you try to do that and you lose all three. You have to take them one at a time."

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