From 1977 to 1983, Dundalk strung together seven straight North Central District American Legion baseball championships. But in 1984 the Dayton Raiders ended that streak and started their own string of seven straight championships.
Based on Monday night's action at the Dayton Rod and Gun Club, however, Dayton's streak may end this year andDundalk return to its former glory. Dundalk, 4-2 in league play, turned back the arch-rival Raiders, 7-4, in a game filled with poor fielding, most of it by Dayton.
Dayton made five errors and four wild pitches and allowed Dundalkto steal four bases. Dayton lacked clutch hitting. The Raiders twicefailed to score a runner from third with one out.
And the team missed two signs from its manager with negative results. One player missed a hit-and-run sign that resulted in a runner getting thrown out. That same player, catcher Alex Brown, missed a sign telling him to call for an intentional walk on a 3-0 count with runners at third and second. The Dundalk batter singled home a run.
Brown did redeem himself offensively with a two-run homer and two walks. Thehome run was Dayton's first of the year.
The loss dropped Dayton's record to 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the league. The team lost only six games all of last season while winning 31.
But first-year Dayton manager GeorgeBickerton sees signs of life in the team, and he hopes for a second-half turnaround that could yet win the Raiders another North-Central title.
The American Legion season is divided into two 13-game halves, and, if different teams win each half, the title is decided by a playoff. So Dayton could win the second half and a playoff and still claim the title.
"Before the season is over we'll be surprising people," Bickerton said. "We're not untracked with the bats yet, but we're capable of hitting well. And we're having trouble with our fielding right now."
Five of the seven Dundalk runs were unearned, as starting pitcher Brian Egolf and reliever Todd Messner pitched with tough luck.
Egolf went 2 1/3 innings plus three batters before leaving with a sore left elbow. He allowed five hits and a walk and was charged with three runs, one earned.
Messner pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing only three hits and walking none. He gave up four runs, one earned. He retired the last seven batters he faced.
The big hit Messner allowed was a three-run homer by Sean Downs after two infield errors in the fifth inning.
Dundalk led, 7-0, following that homer, and it looked like a rout. But Dayton rallied to make the final scorerespectable.
The Raiders pushed across one run in the bottom of the fifth on two errors and a walk.
Then they scored three in the sixth off hard-throwing relief pitcher Mike Hege, who entered the gameto start the inning.
Mike Kelley opened with a single and went tosecond on a wild pitch. He scored on a single by Mark Trecannelli. Brown followed with a homer over the left-field fence.
Despite getting only five hits, the Raiders banged five other balls hard, including three deep outfield fly outs and two line drives right at infielders.
Dundalk Manager Earl Murphy is hopeful his team can contend this year.
"We should be pretty good, although we had three players at the ocean tonight," Murphy said. "This is the first time in two years that we've beaten Dayton."
His starting pitcher, Chris Toland,threw five innings of two-hit ball. His cleanup batter, Downs, went 2-for-4 with four RBI.
Dayton has four players who've been hittingwell. Trecannelli leads the team at .421, with Kelley next at .400. Shortstop Joe Goldberg is batting, .364 and Brian Bickerton is hitting .353.
Monday's game was Dayton's sixth in eight days. They lost to Baltimore Highlands, 4-1, Cissel-Saxon, 15-14, Gaithersburg No. 295, 7-4, Gaithersburg No. 104, 10-4, and Dundalk, 7-4.
Their only league win was over Damascus, 7-3. They won three of four games in a Memorial Day tournament.
Messner, whose record is 2-0, pitched a seven-hitter against Damascus.
Bickerton, Kelley and Trecannelli each had two hits.
Against Cissel-Saxon -- a team Bickerton describedas the best in Montgomery County -- the Raiders staged an incredible12-run rally in the last inning to tie the game 14-14, but lost it in the bottom of the seventh on a bases-loaded walk.