Last spring, Greg Elliott was a freshman at Seton Hall University, Trevor Buckley was a freshman at St. Mary's College and Greg Kirby wasa junior at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
This spring, the Carroll County trio is the backbone of the UMBC baseball squad.
"We have a very close team, but the three of us have developed a special kind of relationship, all being from Carroll," Kirby said.
Before this year, none knew much about the others.
Kirby, a senior co-captain, had only heard of the younger Elliott and Buckley. The two sophomores played against one another a few times as youths but didn't have the opportunity in high school because Elliott went to Calvert Hall in Towson.
Now they are united, and each plays a significant role for Coach John Jancuska's UMBC team.
Kirby is one of twoseniors on a team dominated by sophomore and freshman talent. Along with his leadership, Kirby provides much of the offensive punch as the squad's designated hitter.
"He's capable of carrying us a few games at a time and has done so in the past," UMBC coach John Jancuska said. "When he's on, he hits the ball as hard as anybody."
The Westminster High graduate did just that Wednesday when he hit a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth against conference foe Towson State topull UMBC to within one at 9-8 before they won the game with two in the ninth.
"This is an incredibly big win for us," Kirby said, "Wehave a lot of young talent, and coming back to beat a good team likeTowson gives us a great deal of confidence."
After 29 games this season, Kirby, who also plays a little outfield, is batting .292 withtwo homers and 18 runs batted in. In his last 17 plate appearances, he has caught fire with nine hits.
"I'm just trying to hit the ball hard and doing whatever it takes to be a winner," he said.
Kirby's biggest assets may be his four years of varsity experience and theleadership he brings to the dugout. A fifth-year senior majoring in emergency health services, Kirby enjoys his role as captain.
"We are loaded with very young talent. I just try to keep the team up and motivated, teaching them what I've learned from past captains."
After an unhappy freshman year at Seton Hall in New Jersey, New Windsor's Elliott is making things happen in his role as leadoff man for UMBC.
This season, the right fielder is hitting .417 with seven homers, 31 runs batted in, 36 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.
"I'd just like to keep getting on base and scoring some runs," Elliott said. "We should be doing a lot better. We're losing a lot of one-run games."
Jancuska recruited Elliott out of Calvert Hall when the latter decided to attend Seton Hall. When Elliott decided he wanted to transfer after his freshman year at Hall, Jancuska still needed a leadoff hitter and knew Elliott was the answer.
"Academically, we had whathe wanted (bio-psychology), and it was a perfect match," Jancuska said. "He's the fastest kid we've ever had getting down the baseline, and he also has power. (Defensively), he has a strong arm and the speed to catch up with a lot of balls."
Last year, Hampstead's Trevor Buckley was playing basketball for St. Mary's College, an NCAA Division III school in Southern Maryland. A two-sport athlete at North Carroll, he now finds himself a key contributor on the UMBC pitching staff.
"I always wanted to play Division I baseball," Buckley said, "I was just aiming to get in some innings in some conference game out of the bullpen and work my way into the rotation."
Injuries to twoexperienced starters made room for Buckley to gain a spot in the starting rotation a bit earlier than expected, and he has responded well. In 10 appearances, he has a 3-2 record with two saves and two complete games.
"He has pitched great as a first-year player at this level and has kept us in every game. He has a good fastball.