FREDERICK -- The Orioles might end up with a disappointing season, but the same can't be said for the Frederick Keys, their Single A affiliate in the Carolina League.
The Keys won the league championship, beating Kinston three games to two in the playoffs that ended last Friday. Frederick finished with a 77-64 record, including the playoffs, and won the Carolina League Northern Division's first- and second-half titles.
The Keys also averaged 4,547 fans a game, best in the nation among Single A teams. They drew 277,348 fans for 61 home dates and had nine dates rained out.
But, more important to the Orioles, several of the Keys had outstanding seasons and showed promise for the future.
Rightfielder Tyrone Kingwood batted .335, but was 19 plate appearances short of qualifying for the league title. Kingwood signed with the Keys as a free agent in late May.
Tim Holland overcame a stomach virus, shoulder problems and an 0-for-32 slump to hit .302 with eight home runs. He also played every position but catcher and pitcher this year, but was mainly used at third base and in leftfield.
Ed Horowitz, a catcher whom the Orioles reportedly were thinking of demoting to Wausau early in the year, hit .315.
Shortstop Ricky Gutierrez, a strong fielder, showed he could hit as well, finishing with a .275 batting average. Other hitters who had solid years included second baseman Tony Beasley, catcher Mike Lehman and centerfielder Roy Gilbert.
Pitcher Mike Oquist set a Hagerstown-Frederick record for strikeouts with 170. He led the Carolina League. Oquist had a 9-8 record and 2.81 earned run average.
Todd Stephan finished the year with 19 saves (two in the playoffs) and a 1.32 ERA. Stephan was signed as a free agent during the winter and the Orioles were the only organization that wanted him.
Zachary Kerr set a franchise record with 14 wins. He lost seven and had a 2.94 earned run average. Pat Leinen was 6-6 with a 3.00 ERA.
The championship was the first for a Maryland team in the Carolina League since 1981, Hagerstown's first year in the league. At that time it was a co-op franchise with most of the players coming from the Orioles. The Hagerstown Suns were a Single A team until 1989, when they moved to Double A and the Keys became the Orioles' Carolina League team.