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Rebels on roll

Cougars up next

May 23, 2003|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Not long ago, South Hagerstown's baseball team seemed on a path to an early exit from the playoffs.

The Rebels had lost their final four regular-season games and fallen to 9-8 and out of the Monocacy Valley Athletic League race.

In one week, everything changed.

Today, the Rebels stand one victory away from a Class 1A state title, with only MVAL rival Catoctin standing in the way. They'll meet at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans, Md., on Saturday at 7 p.m.

"I made a statement at the beginning of the year: We have (17) scrimmages and then the real season starts," South coach Ralph Stottlemyer said Thursday. "No matter what happens, we have to reload and get at it again."

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The Rebels' run started with a 10-7 first-round win at Northern Garrett last Wednesday in a game that was rescheduled three times due to rain.

But the real eye-opening moment came when South's ace, David Miner, outpitched Clear Spring's ace, Adam Mills, for a 2-0 victory the next day in the quarterfinals. Miner hit the game-winning, two-run homer off Mills.

"We've met Clear Spring's best pitcher and we rose to the occasion," Stottlemyer said. "The bigger the challenge, the better they fight. You put them in tight spots and they fight through the adversity. They love competition."

The Rebels went an extra inning to hold off a Smithsburg rally in a tense 5-4 victory last Saturday in the regional semifinals, then gave the ball to Miner again Monday in the final. The ace led South to an 8-1 win over Southern Garrett and its unbeaten ace, Chris Smith.

Finally, South defeated Cambridge-South Dorchester 6-4 in Tuesday's state semifinals in a game that could have gone either way.

"We played five games in seven days and won all five," Stottelmyer said. "We caught some breaks, but I'd rather be lucky than good. ... We're a surprise to everybody."

The only question left is whether the Rebels can beat the Cougars, a senior-dominated team for which a loss in last year's state final has provided plenty of motivation. Then again, with a state title on the line, South needs no reason to get pumped up.

"This game Saturday, I don't need to give any pep talks," Stottlemyer said. "I don't need to say a word, just take them down and put them on the field."

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