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New coach, same goal for Funkstown Post 211

May 29, 2006|by CHRIS Carter/Staff Correspondent

Funkstown Legion Post 211 baseball hopes to usher in the Brian Smith coaching era in the same way it ended Darryl Powell's tenure in 2005 - with a championship.

Funkstown captured its first state title in 22 years last season and has plenty of shoes to fill from that championship team. On top of Powell's departure, several key players from the squad that won a team record 41 games also are gone. Smith hopes to make it a smooth transition by continuing the success.

"We definitely have all the pieces," he said. "This is a strong group of players and there's a lot of talent on the field. Everyone's competing and pushing each other. And there are some guys with some more experience and are showing it."

Experience was a large factor in the good fortunes of last season's team - the first that benefitted from a new American Legion rule extending the age limit to 19 years old, allowing returning college students one year of eligibility. Funkstown has only four returning college players this season, but the difference is evident.

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"You can tell there's a change in maturity," he said. "Some of these guys got 50 to 60 games under their belt at the next level and it's made them get better. They are going to be the guys to assume leadership roles."

Trevor Cobb, Matt Murray and Matt Ridenour return after a year at Hagerstown Community College, while Dave Warrenfeltz returns after his freshman year at University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

This year's Post 211 team is made up of what could be considered the Washington County all-stars, as the best from seven of the county schools fill out the roster: Boonsboro's Cam Shifler, Matt Byers, Matt Fortese, Cody Poffenberger and Jere Mills, North Hagerstown's Kent Worthington, Justin Weaver and Freddie Kreiger, Williamsport's Tyler Beard and Jason Sutherland, Broadfording's John Kehr, St. Maria Goretti's Kevin Brashears, St. James' Alex Bust and Clear Spring's Andrew Blickenstaff.

Eighteen players make up Funkstown Post 211's roster, but not one has cemented his role in the lineup.

"We're in the feeling-out process. We still haven't had a day where all 18 players have been together on one day," Smith said. "Once we get used to roles, we'll be able to start deciding what to do with our pitching. We'll have some starters, some middle guys and a closer. We still have to figure it out."

Funkstown will need that pitching to hold its own - especially in Western Maryland District play - to have any chance at a successful state title defense. Since Frederick has already secured a berth in the state tournament as the host team, Funkstown is essentially in a two-team race with Mt. Airy to qualify for the postseason.

"The big thing is that we play in a three-team district," Smith said. "It's basically a showdown between us and Mt. Airy. We need to take care of business and qualify and then go from there."

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