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'We know we're good'

Blazers are brimming with confidence as state semis approach

Blazers are brimming with confidence as state semis approach

May 19, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

CLEAR SPRING -- Its top two pitchers combined to go 9-1 with a 1.22 ERA in the regular season. Its top nine hitters combined for a .404 average with 37 doubles and 20 home runs, scoring more than eight runs a game.

No wonder Clear Spring's baseball team enters the state semifinals with a surplus of confidence.

"Any given day we come to the park, we know we're going to hit and we know we're going to pitch," Blazers senior John Kehr said after Clear Spring won the Class 1A West region on Friday. "We know we're good, and we never think we're going to lose. We always think we're going to win."

Clear Spring's 10-4 victory over Mountain Ridge on Friday gave the Blazers their first region title since 1992. They'll play Harford Tech on Tuesday at 4 p.m. or 7 p.m. at McCurdy Field in Frederick, Md.

The Blazers won their only state baseball title in 1980 and reached the final in 1981. The current squad has had high hopes for joining those ranks ever since the seasan started.

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"After the first practice, just the way the team came together and the atmosphere, we knew things could happen and we could do this," junior Jordan Thurber said. "This team we have, we've all been playing together for a few years. There's a unity here, and we know we can count on anybody at any time."

The offense has been even better in the playoffs, scoring 28 runs in three games -- including a 16-5 thumping of Allegany in the region quarterfinals. Clear Spring has hit seven home runs in the three games, four coming against the Campers.

Including the playoffs, Thurber has six home runs, Josh Constable and Kehr five each and Aaron Mills four this season. Little-used reserve Joel Rowe has two homers in the last four games.

"Early on, the top four of us were struggling and the sticks at the bottom of the lineup were getting a lot of RBIs," said Mills, a senior and four-year starter. "Late in the season it switched, and now it seems we're all hitting. We can even bring people off the bench when needed."

"The hitters have been a little upset they're not getting as much credit as the pitchers," Blazers coach Mark Shives said.

Maybe that's because Clear Spring's 1-2 punch of Kehr and Constable has been as good as any in the Tri-State area. They're both fresh for Tuesday's semifinal and, if the Blazers get there, the final.

"We're real confident," Mills said. "Constable's been lights out all year, and John's just ... what do I say? I've never been as confident behind two pitchers. We know we only need one or two runs and they'll take care of the rest."

Constable is coming off a four-hit, 2-0 shutout of Boonsboro in the region semifinals. He struck out 10 in that game.

"I have no qualms pitching both of them Tuesday," Shives said. "I could throw both Tuesday and throw both again Saturday. Right now in the playoffs, it's win the next one, then worry about the final."

Should Shives need to, he has several other arms to call on in a pinch. Josh Kehr, Mills and Thurber all are capable of providing quality innings.

"It doesn't matter who's pitching, we know we can win with whoever's out there," Thurber said. "We have so many people to turn to."

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