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Mind games

Keen mental approach keeps Warriors thinking state

Keen mental approach keeps Warriors thinking state

May 23, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

Boonsboro's baseball team already knew how to start a season with a flourish. This season, they're conquering the ending.

Last season, Boonsboro got out to a 9-2 start and was at the top of the MVAL Antietam standings, but faltered down the stretch, going 5-5 over its final 10 games.

There was no letdown this year as the Warriors (16-5) took the MVAL Antietam lead early and never let it go. Boonsboro carried that momentum into the playoffs, winning the Maryland Class 1A West region title Saturday with a 4-2 victory over Williamsport that earned the Warriors a spot in today's state semifinals at 4 p.m., against Snow Hill at McCurdy Field in Frederick, Md.

Boonsboro has not lost two in a row all season, showing remarkable consistency and an ability to shake off disappointment and move on.

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"I think they're pretty focused on what they want to do, and they come to play," Warriors coach Max Shaffer said. "They've set their expectations real high besides what I hold them to, and they're doing real well."

So what changed from last year to this one? It's hard to say, really. However, Shaffer pointed to midseason losses to Clear Spring and South Hagerstown as an eye-opener, and that the team's mentality changed after that.

"They realized we couldn't take any team for granted, and we grew from that," Shaffer said. "That's what woke us up."

Boonsboro's pitching has been a strength all season, led by staff ace Cam Shifler. He went 5-0 with a 0.91 ERA, allowing 20 hits and 15 walks in 43 innings while striking out 60. He was sharp against Williamsport in the regional final, giving up six hits and one earned run, walking two and fanning four in a complete-game victory.

Crafty left-hander Zac Shifler and sophomore Chris Selby give the Warriors pitching depth, and the defense behind them has been solid.

"In high school baseball, you mainly need pitching," Shaffer said. "Our defense is always there and they bail us out when we're not hitting, and we always seem to get the timely hit."

The Warriors are led offensively by catcher Kyle Kane (.532, six doubles, five homers), the main power threat. Boonsboro surrounds him with plenty of guys who are capable of spraying line drives, as six regular starters - Matt Fortese, Cody Poffenberger, Jeremiah Mills, Jared Ferguson, Tim Cole and Cam Shifler - all hit better than .300 during the regular season, and part-time starter Josh Anders hit .313 in 35 at-bats.

"You just tell them to hit the ball, and they'll hit it," Shaffer said. "We rely on hits more than we do power, and they've been pretty smart on the bases this year. They told me they got picked off a lot last year, and they learned from that."

Boonsboro appears to be a team with no major weaknesses - and that includes the mental side of the game. Should the Warriors find themselves in a tough spot today or, should they advance, Saturday's state title game, look for them to show the determination they've shown all season.

"Everyone makes mistakes, it's how you handle the adversity," Shaffer said. "These kids handled adversity real well."

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