Hammond's baseball success this season is no surprise.
The close-knit feeling that surrounds most championship teams is clearly evident among the Bears. So is plenty of talent.
And whether they won or lost to powerful Northeast of Anne Arundel County yesterday (played after our deadline) in the state Class 2A final at McCurdy Field in Frederick, the team has put together one ofthe greatest seasons of any county baseball team. Their record goinginto the final was 19-4.
Only one county team, the Glenelg squad of 1983 that had the great Greg Smith and Robbie Smith, ever won a state title.
The Bears are a team on which every starting player contributes. It's a team with consistently strong defense and pitching, with power and timely hitting.
Four of the players, Joe Nestor, Jeff Cyran, Jeff Lavis and Mike Alverez have three full years of varsity experience. Now they are seniors and this was destined to be their year.
Coach Bob Maxey has the Bears huddle together 20 minutes before most games begin and they visualize successful execution. Hittingthe ball. Fielding the ball. Throwing the ball.
They are a team that will go out to breakfast together dressed in suit coats and ties to achieve that feeling of oneness -- a closeness that creates success on the field.
Hammond put together a remarkable playoff effort. In three games they beat Hereford, 8-5, Patapsco, 4-3, and Edgewood, 7-0. Who would believe they could accomplish that with a total of just 12 base hits?
In the 8-5 Hereford win, they got just four hits, but three were home runs in the same inning by Alverez, Lavis and Curt Barnard. The other was a two-run single by Cyran.
In the 4-3 Patapsco win, they got just two hits, both by Alverez. They used a single, a hit batter, a walk and an error to score all four runs in one inning.
In the 7-0 Edgewood win, they still got only six hits, but those in
cluded a double and triple by Alverez, a triple by Lavis and a homer by Mark Salerno.
They were out-hit in two of the three games, but still won them all. That's the sign of a great team.
Their pitching is deep. Mike Lerner won the first game. When a sore hipkept Nestor from pitching the second game, Cyran stepped in for onlyhis second start of the year and threw a five-hitter. No sweat.
"Joey couldn't go, so I had to get it done," Cyran said matter-of-factly. He usually has control problems when he pitches, but this time hewalked only one batter, and that was in the last inning.
In Hammond fashion, the Bears ended that game with a bang on what they call "The Lost Ball Trick."
Cyran wheeled and faked a throw to first. First-baseman Lavis acted like the ball had gotten past him. The Bears bench pointed down the line and acted distraught. The Patapsco base runner, confused, started toward second base. Cyran ran over and tagged him out.
The third game was a pitching masterpiece by Nestor, a two-hitter with nine strikeouts against a two-time defending state finalist.
"We haven't had a game pitched like that against us all year," Edgewood coach Steve Williams said. "He really mixed his pitcheswell."
Going into the final, Nestor had a 9-2 record. In 76 2/3 innings he has 97 strikeouts and just 19 walks. He has allowed only 15earned runs.
Lerner had an 8-1 record, and in 64 1/3 innings he has 61 strikeouts and 28 walks and has allowed 27 earned runs.
The batting hero of the playoffs was Alverez, with 5-for-8 including a homer, triple, double, two walks, three RBI and four stolen bases.
The speedy lead-off batter, who bench presses 250 pounds, has 34 steals for the year. He entered the playoffs batting .481 with eight extra-base hits.
Lavis also hit well in the playoffs, going 3-for-8, including a homer and a triple. He entered the playoffs batting .517 with 32 RBI and eight extra-base hits.
But every starting player hasreached base at least once in the playoffs by walking or being hit by the pitch.
And the defense turned two double plays in the Patapsco game when they were most needed.
Opportunistic. Together. And talented.
Those are the words that come to mind when I think of theHammond Bears, one of the county's all-time best baseball teams.