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11-12 state tourney: Clear Spring ready for tourney 'sequel'

July 19, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

The Clear Spring 11-12 All-Stars are proud of their calling card.

“This has been pretty exciting,” said first baseman Connor Michael. “We are the first 11-12 team from Clear Spring to win the district title. Now, we’re ready and we’re pumped.”

The first chapter of Clear Spring’s version of Endless Summer ended last weekend when it won the Maryland District 1 championship. And now, it’s time to pen the sequel.

Clear Spring carries that calling card and District 1’s badge of honor into battle Saturday when it opens the Maryland state tournament against District 6 representative Easton at noon.

Clear Spring enters the tournament with confidence and some tournament history in its back pocket. It came through the losers’ bracket and beat National twice to win the district title.

The majority of Clear Spring’s roster is made up of the same players who won 9-10 district and state titles two years ago.

“It doesn’t matter what happened two years ago,” said third baseman-pitcher A.J. Yost. “This isn’t the same team, but it is still a family. We play as a team, we lose as a team, we win as a team and we do everything together as a team.”

Clear Spring’s level of confidence and readiness puts manager Pete Lazich in an interesting situation. Lazich, who managed the 9-10 team, has a cohesive group of players who have been tested before. It takes away a lot of heavy work in preparing for what’s ahead.

“I rarely have to get them fired up,” Lazich said. “They usually show up ready to play and ready to go. We have been practicing since the winter for this. They are pretty used to me and my coaches and what we want. A lot of the parents help us with that.”

For Clear Spring, the major formula for success has been strong pitching and the ability to score first. Pitcher-infielder Josh Colliflower has helped put his team on top early, hitting three first-inning, three-run home runs during district play.

“All my teammates have been getting on base ahead of me and I have been able to relax and hit the ball,” Colliflower said. “We’re pumped and we should be able to go and do what we do.

“There will be some nervousness, but that’s good. If we get nervous, we have more emotion. It keeps us from thinking that we can just go into the game and expect to win. Anyone can still beat us.”

There are more than enough factors for Lazich to keep in mind heading into the state tournament.

First, he knows that all eyes will be on Clear Spring since three of the last four state champions have come from District 1 — Federal in 2008 and Conococheague in ’09 and ’11.

Then comes the tough draw Clear Spring will face in the seven-team tournament. If Clear Spring manages to beat Easton, it will face Brunswick, which received a first-round bye.

Essentially, Clear Spring would face the top pitcher from each of those teams. A loss would force it to come back and play a third straight game on Monday.

“We are in a situation where both those games are equally important,” Lazich said. “We have to be flexible about it. You go in there to win games, but you have to coach to win the tournament.

“Going in, we don’t know much about the other teams. We don’t have a whole lot of choice than to prepare for every game. It is unfortunate that you don’t know what pitches certain hitters like or how certain pitchers pitch. It’s nice to know, but we won’t.”

What Clear Spring does have in its favor is an aggressive style of play and a group of 11 players who have all been able to hit the ball.

“That’s our philosophy,” Lazich said. “We want to get momentum and build on it. I haven’t seen a sport where momentum is so important other than baseball, especially for 11- and 12-year-olds.”

Clear Spring is made up of nine players from the 9-10 team along with two others who joined the group this year. Each has fit in well and contributed to Clear Spring’s fortunes.

“We have 11 kids on the team and they all hit the ball,” Lazich said. “From 1 to 11, I have confidence in them all and each one of them have come up big for us and made a contribution to help us.”

Joe Micco is one of Clear Spring’s role players and embraces his place on the team.

“It’s fun for me to play a lot of positions,” Micco said. “It feels good because it is important. When I play, I try to do my best for the team and show what I can do. This is a team sport and everyone has to make some sacrifices for the good of the team.”

Put it all together and Clear Spring has many reasons to look forward to making the state tournament a sequel to their successes.

“This isn’t brand new to them and that’s why we feel prepared,” Lazich said. “But they are kids. They play with a lot of confidence and are ready to go. We’ll benefit from (the experience) somewhere along the way ... maybe it will be in the first game.”

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