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Kolb's opportune blast lifts Lions to title

May 30, 2003|By DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

HARMANS, Md. - Dustin Kolb picked the perfect time to hit his first home run of 2003.

Kolb drilled the first pitch of the bottom of the sixth inning far over the fence in left field, breaking a 4-4 tie and lifting Walkersville to its third state baseball title with a 5-4 victory Thursday over previously undefeated Eastern Tech in the Class 2A final at Joe Cannon Stadium.

"That's the first home run I hit this season, and I had a doubt about it," Kolb said. "This is a pretty deep field. I knew I hit it, I just didn't know if it would go out."

The Lions (16-5-1) finished the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak, including a tie with Williamsport late in the regular season. They won their first state title since 1999 (Walkersville's other championship came in 1978).

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Kolb - who struck out twice in previous at-bats against Eastern Tech starter Dan Hoskins - jumped on a first-pitch fastball and launched it a good 20 feet past the fence.

"I went up there pretending I was 2-for-2 and went up there swinging," Kolb said.

"I knew he hit it well," Lions coach Mike O'Brien said. "It went over the fence and I was yelling and screaming. That's what we needed, was one run."

Danny Leatherman - who came on in relief of Pat Blake in the fourth inning - escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh by getting Hoskins to foul out to third baseman Anthony Binkley and Zach Cody to fly out to Kolb in left field to end the game, making O'Brien a champion in his first season as the Lions' head coach.

"Coming in as a first-year coaching staff, we knew we had the tools," O'Brien said. "Our only question marks were our hitting and how we'd come together as a team."

Walkersville's offense answered all questions by pounding out 10 hits - including a remarkable six doubles - against the Mavericks (18-1), and the Lions came together over the five-week stretch following a loss to Brunswick on April 23 that left Walkersville at 5-5.

"We'd win one, then lose one, then win one, then lose one," Lions catcher Ray Dorsey said. "Once we got hot, we were in a groove."

"Once we hit our winning streak, we played as 19 guys," O'Brien said.

Eastern Tech took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Blake walked the bases loaded with one out and Hoskins singled to right.

Walkersville answered with two runs in the bottom half on three doubles. Dorsey led off with one down the right field line, and one out later, Leatherman hit his down the left field line to score Dorsey. Josh Harrison followed with his shot to the right-field gap to score Leatherman.

"That's all we did the entire time we were off, is hit and hit and hit," O'Brien said. "Whiffle balls, pitching machines, we tried everything we could think of to get our hitting going.

"We hit (batting practice) three times today," Leatherman said. "We got out of school at quarter of noon, took batting, came here and took batting, and then some guys took batting in the cages again."

The Mavericks took a 4-2 lead the fourth. Blake hit Hoskins with his first pitch before Vince Stella and Lonnie Cellini singled to load the bases and chase Blake after the first out.

Bryan Moffa greeted Leatherman with a hard grounder to third that Binkley - who had just replaced Leatherman at third base - couldn't handle for an error as Hoskins scored.

Leatherman walked Chase Barnes to force in Stella, and two pitches later, Leatherman was called for a balk, allowing Cellini to score.

"We got down 4-2 and people started thinking we were gonna lose," Leatherman said. "But we didn't think that."

Walkersville cut the lead to 4-3 in the fourth when Harrison singled through the hole at short and later scored on Luke Bedard's double to the gap in left center.

The Lions swung momentum further with a pick-off play in the fifth. With one out, Hoskins doubled to the left-field corner to start a threat. But Walkersville pulled a trick play where Leatherman turned and faked a pickoff throw to second, with shortstop Josh Jacobson and second baseman Luke Bedard diving as if a throw got away. Hoskins was fooled and ran for third, and Leatherman threw to Binkley for the easy out.

"It's one of those plays where when it can work, it can boost the morale of the team," Dorsey said. "We were down by one run, and it was a huge play."

Walkersville tied the game in the fifth when Dorsey and Leatherman both doubled again, setting up Kolb's heroics in the next inning.

"Being a senior and realizing the work and dedication that goes into this," Dorsey said, "this victory is definitely going out with a bang."

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