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Loaded Funkstown Post 211 in search of state title

July 28, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

So far, whenever all the chips have been in the middle of the table, Funkstown Post 211 has won.

Funkstown's first game of the Maryland American Legion state tournament will surely put Post 211 to the test, when it faces two-time defending state champion Gaithersburg Post 295 at noon Friday at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Md.

"We played them earlier this year, and we played them last year in the tournament, and both times we held the lead on them and let them come back on us," Funkstown manager Darryl Powell said. "They're kind of the wall in front of us."

So far this season, no wall has been high enough to stop Funkstown.

Post 211 (37-11) rolled through the first half of the regular season, easily winning the first-half Western Maryland District title. Funkstown stumbled a little bit in the second half, getting swept by Mount Airy 9-2 and 16-14 in a doubleheader last Saturday as Mount Airy won the second-half title.

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But with a trip to the state tournament on the line in the best-of-3 district series, Funkstown rolled past Mount Airy 17-4 on Sunday and 6-0 on Monday to win its fifth district title in six years.

"When we need to win, everybody takes their game to the next level," said Jay Love, a Boonsboro High School graduate who played at Northwest Shoals Community College last spring and is transferring to Hagerstown Community College in the fall. "Everyone's a playmaker and steps up."

"Those last two games, they really turned it around 180 degrees," Powell said. "That sweep (Saturday) was scary. Mount Airy is always a team that comes on in the second half. That playoff series could easily have gone in a different direction."

The next step - starting with Gaithersburg - is no small one. But Post 211 has the raw talent and experience (seven players have a year of college experience) to make plenty of noise.

"It's like a Washington County all-star team," said Josh Bowers, a Williamsport graduate who played for Shepherd University last spring. "Some (Division-III college) teams, I guarantee we could have a heck of a game against most of them."

Finding a weak spot in the batting order is next to impossible.

The catchers? David Warrenfeltz (.361, 7 doubles) and Kevin Brashears (.474, 6 doubles, 3 triples) handle things superbly behind the plate.

The infielders? Phil Powell (.301, 9 doubles, 11 home runs, 42 RBI), Drew Crawford (.341, 9 doubles, 36 RBI), Kyle Robinson (4 doubles, 3 homers, 15 RBI) and Trevor Cobb (.430, 4 doubles, 17 RBI) offer little relief for opposing pitchers.

The outfielders? The possibilities are endless, with Tim Kellinger (.381, 11 doubles, 8 homers, 44 RBI), Matt Ridenour (.393, 7 doubles, 4 triples), Bowers (.452, 12 doubles, 5 homers, 37 RBI) and Tyler Beard (.434, 9 doubles) all regulars and Brashears filling in when necessary.

"The biggest thing is we have to score runs, and lots of them," Powell said. "The 10-run rule is a big part down there. If you can 10-run somebody and shorten the game from nine innings to seven, that's two innings you save your pitching staff."

Speaking of the pitching staff, it's also deep. What they lack in eye-popping numbers, Love (7-2, 2.64 ERA, 62 hits in 66 innings), Andy Taylor (4-3, 3.48 ERA, 47 hits in 52 1/3 innings), Nate Steelman (5-1, 2.71 ERA, 42 hits in 49 innings), Bowers (3-1, 5 saves, 3.68 ERA, 46 strikeouts in 38 innings) and Craig Henson (7-2, 3.64 ERA, 43 hits and 57 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings) make up for with consistency.

"I can't remember a lot of bad pitching performances," Powell said. "They've kept us in pretty much every game."

The chips are down again, and all that remains to be seen is whether Funkstown can continue to hold all the cards.

"There's no reason we should not win (states)." Love said. "As long as we play our game, we should not have a problem."

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