Hammond High carved its niche this year as one of the county's all-time great baseball teams.
One of only four county squads ever to make the state finals, the Bears combined excellent pitching, superb defense and speed and widespread power hitting.
The Bears also had the hard-to-define quality of togetherness that produced one of Hammond High's finest sports teams.
Five of the Bears starters earned first-team honors on the Howard County Sun All-County baseball team.
Pitcher Joe Nestor earned Player of the Yearhonors. The senior left-hander pitched most of Hammond's biggest games and finished with a 9-3 record that included a no-hitter, a one-hitter and a two-hitter.
Bears coach Bob Maxey is the Howard County Sun Coach of the Year. He built the team from scratch over the past three years, and his baseball knowledge and organizational ability were clearly evident in its success.
Hammond won the league title by two games, finishing with a 19-5 overall mark and 12-2 league record.
Centennial emerged from the pack to finish second, mainly becausetwo first-year varsity pitchers, junior Brian Bickerton and senior Justin Thomas, who transferred here from San Francisco, produced outstanding seasons on the mound.
The Eagles (14-8 overall, 10-4 league), Mount Hebron and Oakland Mills each placed two players on the first team, and Glenelg had one.
Mount Hebron (11-7, 8-6) and Oakland Mills (10-8, 8-6) finished tied for third place.
The All-County selections:
Nestor put up the kind of numbers pitchers dream about. With his 9-3 record, he had a 1.83 earned run average.
Nestor fanned 101 batters and walked just 24 in 80 innings. One of his losses was a relief effort against Atholton, and theother two were to state Class 2A champion Northeast, the team rankedNo. 1 in the area by The Sun. Northeast averaged 14 runs per game.
Nestor beat Mount Hebron three times, Centennial twice and Oakland Mills, Liberty, Wilde Lake and Edgewood once.
Nestor also served as designated hitter frequently, batting .354 (17-for-48), including two homers, two doubles and 12 RBI.
Mike Lerner of Hammond also putup outstanding numbers as the Bears' No. 2 pitcher. He was 8-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Lerner fanned 63 and walked 27 in 67 innings. The senior right-hander shut out South River and pitched a one-hitter againstWilde Lake. He was also the winning pitcher in Hammond's regional semifinal victory over Hereford.
Brian Bickerton of Centennial was the only junior picked to the first team, and his numbers rival Nestor's and Lerner's. Bickerton was 8-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He fanned 70 and walked 33 in 60 innings.
The right-hander shut out Maryland Scholastic Association powerhouse Mt. St. Joseph 1-0 in the first game of the season. He also beat MSA's McDonogh and turned back Liberty in theClass 3A regional semifinal.
Bickerton played shortstop when not pitching and batted .388 (19-for-49) with three doubles, three homersand 16 RBI.
Baron Gauna of Mount Hebron was one of thetop catchers in the Baltimore area. Only three players stole on him all season.
Gauna batted .409 (27-for-66) with six doubles, three triples and a homer. He knocked in 17 runs and stole 13 bases.
Austin Groves of Centennial had one of the best seasons ever for a county first baseman. He handled 131 chances without an error. And the senior left-hander batted .423 (22-for-52) with 26 RBI to lead his team in both categories. He had four doubles and three triples.
"He was a very consistent hitter all season and an excellent fielder," Eagles coach Ron Martin said. "He was always in the game -- a super kid."
Eric Glenn of Mount Hebron led all second basemen with a .385 batting average (25-for-65).
As the Vikings lead-off batter, he scored 25 runs. The senior made six errors in 94 chances in the field. He stole 22 bases in 24 attempts.
"He had good speed and read the pitcher's moves to first really well," said Vikings coach DaveAppleby.
Jeff Cyran of Hammond led the league in home runs and was outstanding defensively at shortstop.
Cyran batted .426 (29-for-68) with six doubles, two triples and six homers. The senior knocked in 24 runs and scored 26. He stole 20 bases and showed excellent speed. He made four errors in 90 fielding chances.
Cyran had two-homergames against both Wilde Lake and Howard and had a big two-run single against Hereford in the regional semifinal. And he pitched the regional final against Patapsco, winning 4-3 on a five-hitter in which hewalked just one batter. He was 2-0 as a pitcher.
Joe Coughlan of Oakland Mills earned the third-base position even though his most outstanding contribution was as a pitcher for Oakland Mills.
Coughlanwas 6-2 with a 1.36 ERA. The senior right-hander had 47 strikeouts and 25 walks in 52 innings and threw six complete games. He shut out Hammond, 8-0. Coughlan batted .273 with one double, three homers and 17 RBI.