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HCC faces former champ first at national tournament

May 24, 2008|By TIM KOELBLE

Hagerstown Community College's opening opponent in the 51st NJCAA Division I World Series is no stranger to the national tournament, winning back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000.

"Just who we need for our first opponent," quipped HCC coach Scott Jennings.

The Hawks take the field in the 10-team, double-elimination tournament against Grayson County College (43-15) Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

No matter the result, HCC (40-17) will play its second game on Tuesday. With a win, HCC would play at 9:30 p.m. With a loss, the Hawks will play at 1 p.m.

"Our hope is to win the whole thing, but it would sure be nice to win at least one game," said sophomore Matt Byers, a Boonsboro graduate who is hitting .303 this season. "I hope we do well. We've accomplished a lot and this is what we've worked for the last two years."

HCC gained the final spot in the tournament field by winning the best-of-3 Eastern District series against Pitt (N.C.) Community College, 2-1.

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Jennings said his team gained some steam in the Region XX Tournament with two wins over Potomac State College, avenging two regular-season losses.

"It was a momentum builder winning the first game and that helped win the second game to get us to the district," Jennings said. "We've played better baseball at crunch time."

HCC takes a .288 team batting average and a team ERA of 3.68 into the Colorado altitude, one that lends itself to much higher-scoring games.

Matt Greene, a freshman shortstop, leads the Hawks in batting average (.373), hits (69), doubles (14) and triples (5).

Roland Thiele, who splits time between left field and designated hitter, leads the Hawks in the power category with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs. Right fielder Charles Johnson has eight homers and 27 RBIs.

Infielder Jacob Darr, of Frederick, Md., switched from third base to shortstop when the Hawks needed to make adjustments due to injuries, and is batting .316, leading the team in runs scored (47) and stolen bases (34).

However, he was held hitless in 11 official at-bats in the Eastern District and is looking to turn it around in Colorado.

"I didn't get any hits at the wrong time, but everyone else came through and that's what we've done as a team," said Darr. "We've had chemistry on this team and have played for each other. It's a crazy-good feeling."

After his game-clinching win with a complete-game performance against Pitt, sophomore Aerik Taylor called the trip to the World Series "icing on the cake."

Taylor spent his freshman year at Oklahoma State after graduating from Williamsport, but came back to HCC after a lack of playing time with the Cowboys.

"I came back here to get a year of work in and it's all been worth it with these guys," said Taylor, who will return to NCAA Division I in the fall at Radford University.

Grayson is led offensively by J.D. Afaro (.363, 17 HRs, 66 RBIs), Bo Coffman (.376, 7 HRs, 44 RBIs) and Eric Walker (.372, 5 HRs, 52 RBIs). R.L. Eisenbach is Grayson's top pitcher (9-0, 3.48 ERA).

WJEJ 1240 AM will broadcast HCC's World Series games.

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