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Teamwork helps teams to state berths

July 24, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI

Baseball is a team game.

Three all-star teams -- the Halfway 11-12s, Conococheague Juniors and Maugansville Seniors -- all found that out in time to advance to state tournament play this weekend.

Halfway learned its lesson the hard way, needing a loss early in the District 1 tournament to be convinced that winning is a group effort. Halfway lost 4-3 to Valley and worked its way through the losers' bracket, culminating with a two-game sweep of defending state champion Conococheague to win its first district title since 1999.

"Losing that one game got us focused," said Halfway manager Les Martin. "They were a bunch of players who were individuals. After that loss, we started telling them they had to play together as a team. Now they understand team unity."

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The reward for passing the test is today's state opener against District 4 champion Davidson at 12:30 p.m. in the seven-team tournament in West Salisbury, Md.

Outfielder Zach Andrews and catcher Matt Malphurs have become Halfway's leaders on the field, while Tanner Canfield and Bryce Ruppenthal have anchored the pitching staff.

"Andrews is in the outfield and Malphurs is starting to pick things up behind the plate and is pumping up the infield," Martin said. "Canfield had played well and Ruppenthal is quiet, but he might be one of the best pitchers in the county.

"We knew we had a hitting team and they are a great bunch of kids. They want it now. Their attention is focused. When you have unity like this, it all starts to fall together."

For Conococheague's Junior All-Stars, it is a matter of, "The team that plays together wins together."

"Honestly, this group right here is the closest thing to friends of any of the teams I have had," said Conococheague manager Jamie Martin. "These kids do win as a team. They pick each other up and back each other up."

Conococheague opens play today at 11 a.m. against Rising Sun, the District 5 champion, at South River High School in Edgewater, Md. The winner advances to play South Maryland, the host team from District 4 which has a first-round bye, on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Conococheague has an interesting mix of players. Some are from last year's Junior team that finished second in districts, while others played on the District 1 state champion 11-12 team.

"I see a lot of confidence, not cockiness," Jamie Martin said.

The greatest testament to Conococheague's team play comes in the field. The All-Stars committed only three errors in four games en route to the District 1 title.

"That's huge," Jamie Martin said. "We made a lot of good plays and got pitching when we needed it. We have been able to shut down problems before they got out of hand.

"We are able to hit the ball and we can score, but it is our defense. If you go out there and stop the other team from scoring, it is an advantage and you only need to score one more run than the other team to win."

The Maugansville Senior All-Stars are taking a Three Musketeers approach to their state tournament appearance.

It is all for one and one for all.

"This is such a team and we have been emphasizing that from the beginning," said Maugansville manager Dan Dopson. "We have become stronger for it."

Maugansville, the two-time District 1 champions, will face District 7 champion Waldorf on Sunday in the opener of the six-team tournament in Cambridge, Md.

The team is a hybrid of players from Maugansville and Federal Senior Leagues, but has five players returning from last year's squad.

Dopson said Maugansville had the opportunity to see Waldorf play its district title game. He said the All-Stars have every chance of advancing, especially if they stay within the team concept.

"They are having a great time playing baseball and they are out there being competitive," Dopson said. "It seems like if someone is down, someone else comes along to pick them up. We showed we can hit the ball and that we can play small ball. It all fits well for the style of play we will have to play at states."

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