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Baseball team put HCC near the head of its class

June 07, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

It takes a lot to become "A National Program With Class."

That has been Hagerstown Community College's motto for the last two years since Bo Myers became the school's athletic director. It took HCC's baseball team to end an athletic year that might put the school on the map for years to come.

The Hawks were honored for their third-place finish in the recent National Junior College World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., in a pregame ceremony before the Lake County-Hagerstown Suns game at Municipal Stadium on Friday. It put the finishing touches on the finest baseball season in HCC history, and it also dropped the curtain on the arguably the best athletic year for the entire HCC athletic program.

"I'm very proud of everything this team accomplished," said HCC baseball coach Scott Jennings. "To finish third in the World Series is remarkable. Anyone could see the talent level we were facing, and to win a couple of games was a major accomplishment."

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HCC overcame injuries, particularly on the pitching staff, to go 2-2 in the tournament. They lost the opener before winning the next two games in the 10-team bracket to finish in the final four. The Hawks lost to Shelton State (Ala.) in the semifinals, but sealed the national program with class moniker.

"We are so proud of this team," Myers said during the ceremony. "They had a record-breaking year and went to Grand Junction for the first time in 15 years. This team made such an impression by winning the National Junior College Sportsmanship award. If you can't win the national title, this is the one you want to win."

Hagerstown City Council member Kelly Cromer presented the Hawks a city proclamation and Hagerstown City pins for each of the members to commemorate the accomplishment.

But the successful trip to the World Series gave even more intangible things to the players and the school.

"Playing in this helped show me I can play at the next level," said pitcher Cory Livengood, a Waynesboro graduate. "That was the most people I had ever played in front of. That was the first thing you noticed. It was amazing. That was the best competition I had ever played against."

Livengood was called on to pitch in relief in HCC's opening loss to Grayson (Texas) County College, the eventual national champion, before more than 10,000 fans. Spencer Cromer, a South Hagerstown graduate, got his own memories by pitching the win in HCC's first victory over Chipola (Fla.) College.

"It felt good to get the win for the team and keep us alive so we just didn't play two games and go home," Cromer said. "It was good to be able to set a standard for us. It is going to help us out next year because the guys who will be coming back will know what it will take to get back there again. It gave me more confidence."

The trip helped give HCC even more exposure. The baseball team was the final leg of an athletic relay as HCC's volleyball team and track teams made what have become almost become annual trips to national competition. Other sports, like the men's and women's basketball teams, challenged for region titles.

"It all adds to the reputation of the program and gives more confidence to our coaches," said HCC president Dr. Guy Altieri. "It helps with recruiting and it helps with fundraising for our booster club. It moves everything in a positive direction. When you get winning, everything gets rolling."

That won't make HCC an automatic member of the World Series every year, though.

"There are a lot of roadblocks along the way and everything had to fall into the right places," Jennings said. "It is a combination of luck and talent, but you can't win without the talented players."

The trip will reap some benefits in the future.

"We are seeing some residual effects," Jennings said. "We are getting some interest from players in areas that we haven't been able to tap into before. I've been told that we will see more of the benefits two years from now."

And with it comes the hopes of keeping HCC a national program.

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