Team concept has Hagerstown B bucking order, grasping Zone berth

August 02, 2011|By MARK KELLER |
  • Hagerstown B's Stephen Ashby reaches to pull down a pop fly while teammate Blake Harne watches during practice for this weekend's Zone Tournament in Manchester, N.H. The team's victory in the region tournament surprised everyone but it.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — John Phillips had one goal as manager of the Hagerstown PONY B All-Stars: Get out of town.

If his team keeps playing as well as it did last weekend, he’ll soon have to consult a travel agent.

The B team took its rightful place as runner-up to its A team counterparts in the section tournament 10 days ago, but that was enough to earn the team a trip to Boardman, Ohio, for the East Zone West Region tournament.

“My goal was over at that point, and I told them that,” Phillips said. “But they had something to prove.”

What the B team wanted to prove was that its performance in the section tournament — particularly in 19-3 and 14-4 losses to the A team — was not a true indication of its talents.

And they proved it in a big way, beating the A team — not once, but twice — to take the region title and earn a trip this weekend to the East Zone tournament in Manchester, N.H.

It was the first time the B team has ever beaten the A squad, according to coach Russ Robinson, who has coached at the league since 1976.

“If you get a group of kids that plays together like this group does, it’s not surprising,” Robinson said. “These kids are here to win. I don’t think they feel they can lose.”

The team also proved last weekend that it won’t be an easy out. Get a lead on them and they’ll keep coming until they take the lead back.

In its first win over the A team on Saturday, the B All-Stars trailed 3-1 with two outs in the top of the seventh. Blake Harne’s two-run double was the big hit in a three-run rally that gave the B team a 4-3 lead it protected in the bottom of the seventh.

In Sunday’s title-clinching win, the B team erased one lead and broke a tie with two runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-4 lead before Jeff Bennett finished off his complete-game win.

“These kids aren’t elite, but they’ve got heart and they gave 150 percent,” Phillips said. “I love those guys on the A team, but I wouldn’t trade any of my players.”

Coach Marc Bluma, a former Hagerstown Sun, said this team has jelled more quickly and completely than any team he has been around — from Casey Elbin, whose parents have to drive him 45 minutes one way to get to the field on Jefferson Blvd., to 13-year-old Zach Andrews, who didn’t get to play in Sunday’s final because he would have pitched the decisive game had the B team lost.

“They’re such a level-headed group of kids. We gave them goals and a plan to reach them, and they’ve executed,” Bluma said. “We’ve said to them all along that we can tell them what to do, but they have to do it. They bought in and they’ve done it.

“You can have the 15 best individuals or you can have 15 players as a team. Team always wins.”

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