If you think the "Dead Zone" refers to seating at a rock concert, you haven't seen 15th-ranked Hammond (19-4) play baseball this year.
If you think it's a black hole in the middle infield where base hits disappear, you're right.
"We've got a real good infield," Bears pitcher Joe Nestor said after his two-hit, 6-0 victory over No. 9 Edgewood (17-6) yesterday in a state 2A semifinal game. "We've got the 'Dead Zone.' That's what our second baseman, Tom Costell, and shortstop, Jeff Cyran, call themselves. They've got just two errors between them for the whole season."
Nestor (9-2), a senior lefthander, has been a prime beneficiary of a defense that has but 30 errors in 22 games this year and had a .951 team fielding percentage entering yesterday's game, its eighth errorless performance of the season.
But, with a nasty slider and a sneaky fastball, Nestor has done his share, too. In 77 1/3 innings, he has 99 strikeouts, including nine yesterday, against 19 walks. And, said coach Bob Maxey, "He gets all the tough assignments."
No team wins without runs, though, and the top offensive producers for Hammond have been leftfielder Mike Alvarez (.481), third baseman Matt Cyran (.387), brother Jeff Cyran (.426, six homers) and first baseman Jeff Lavis (.517, 34 RBIs).
Lavis, who hit a 400-foot triple to centerfield yesterday and had another drive caught in the same spot, has received an appointment to West Point and is waiting to hear from the Naval Academy. And Jeff Cyran and Nestor have drawn interest from Division I colleges, too.
On Saturday at 10 a.m., at McCurdy Field in Frederick, the slick-fielding Bears will have their gloves full with heavy-hitting, No. 1-ranked Northeast-AA (23-0), a 13-3 winner over Middletown yesterday.
* In the MSA A Conference double-elimination baseball tournament, Calvert Hall remained unbeaten, downing Mount St. Joseph, 9-4.
Trailing 4-3, the Cardinals (24-8) erupted for five runs on four hits in the top of the fifth inning. Third baseman Larry Marino had a key hit in that inning, his third RBI single of the game. Nick Jeppi followed shortly after with a two-run double.
Calvert Hall, which has won three straight A Conference tournament championships, was idle today as St. Joe (20-4) entertained Archbishop Curley (17-5), which eliminated McDonogh yesterday, 10-4. Both Curley and St. Joe have a tourney loss, so today's loser is eliminated and the winner meets Calvert Hall tomorrow at Towson State University (3:45).
* In the state softball semifinals, Amy Jakubowski no-hit Springbrook as Chesapeake-Anne Arundel moved within one game of defending its state 4A championship with an 11-0 victory. Jakubowski also was 4-for-4 with a home run, and stole home. Chesapeake will face Frederick, which knocked off top-seeded Oxon Hill, 11-1, in Friday night's final.
In Class 2A, Marcie Whitehead of Damascus shut down Mount Hebron, 14-0. Friday Damascus faces Northeast, which capitalized on five Stephen Decatur errors to score 11 unearned runs in a 15-1 rout. In 3A, North Carroll and Elkton advanced to Friday night's championship game, as did North Caroline and Clear Spring in Class 1A.
* In the state baseball playoffs, Perry Hall overpowered Gaithersburg 10-5 to earn the right to defend its Class 4A championship Saturday night against Arundel, a 15-5 winner over Oxon Hill. Arundel combined 13 hits with six Oxon Hill errors in the win.
In 3A, Dundalk hit only four balls out of the infield in falling to Paint Branch, 5-0. Paint Branch will face Thomas Stone, a 9-2 winner over South Carroll, in Saturday's final.
In 1A, Brunswick of Frederick County earned a spot opposite Williamsport with an 11-1 victory over Havre de Grace.