After taking the New Jersey Invitational in Bridgeport last weekend,the Ashley's 35 & Over Mens' Slo-pitch softball team appears to be on track for an encore.
Last season, coach Jim Griffith's team became the first to ever win the state championship in both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and the United States Slo-pitch Softball Association in the same year.
It was also the second straight year in which Ashley's won a state title and the third for Griffith and a handful of guys who played for him when his team was Grand Ritchie Liquors.
The way Griffith'scharges performed last weekend in Jersey, a repeat is conceivable.
"If we play our game, the way we are capable like we did in Bridgeport, we can compete with anybody," said Griffith, whose other claim to fame is that he played high school baseball at Andover with Jim Spencer.
Spencer went on to play 14 seasons in the major leagues withseveral clubs, including the New York Yankees, and was a Gold Glove first baseman.
Griffith went on to work for a living and coach championship softball teams.
He may well have another champion. This current edition won its first in Bridgeport by a 13-12 score over last year's New Jersey State runner-up, Promotions of Jersey, but dropped the second game to the defending Jersey State champs, 3-Point Cafe,by 11-10.
Faced with fighting back in the loser's bracket, Ashley's took the next two to earn a spot in the finals of the double elimination tournament against 3-Point Cafe, a club they had to beat twice. Ashley's was up to it, and how!
Griffith's guys smoked 3-Point Cafe 19-1 and 19-5 to win the tournament convincingly.
The first two games of the tournament were played on a Saturday, with the next four on Sunday, June 23, in a steady drizzle.
After the 1-1 start, Ashley's bounced back to rip Freehold Masters of New York by 12-3 and SMAP of southern Maryland by 16-1.
"Those two wins put us in the finals with another chance at 3-Point Cafe and we didn't waste any time getting control of those games," said Griffith.
Ashley's eruptedfor six runs in the first inning of the first game of the championship round, and 8 in the first inning of the clincher.
At one point in the decisive two games, Ashley's shortstop Buddy Young, a newcomerto the club this season, went on a torrid binge, hitting safely in nine consecutive at bats. Young finished with a .789 batting clip, going 15-for-19 in the six games.
His left-side partner, third baseman Bucky Wicklein, an Ashley's mainstay, took MVP honors for the tournament.
Wicklein batted a robust .762, knocking in 13 runs and making several sparkling plays at the hot corner.
Young's .789 averagewas a team-high for the tournament, followed by Wicklein, pitcher Mike Rohleder at .667, outfielder Paul Niggemyer (.600, 11 RBIs) and Ross Roberts (.588).
Roberts, the Ashley's first sacker, had a club-high 17 RBIs.
With the five wins in Bridgeport, Ashley's ran its overall record to 24-6 and now has its sights on the Upton Invitational for 35 & Over Men to be played at Upton Park in Severn, July 12-14.
Some 25 teams from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington will compete in the Upton Invitational, which is sponsored by Bill Nevin's AM-PRO Sporting Goods and Dudley's, a softball manufacturer.
Ashley's is defending champion in the Upton tourney.
Come late July, Ashley's will play in the highly competitive Zinn'sTournament in Lancaster, Pa., with the ASA States to commence the first weekend in August at Upton Park.
Ashley's will be shooting foranother state title in hopes of eventually advancing to the ASA Nationals in Meridian, Miss. on Labor Day Weekend.
"As usual, when it comes to winning the state championship, it means getting by excellent teams like Ferguson Trenching and Baltimore Loop, which is the old Spirit's West team," says Griffith.
A major upset highlighted opening night action in the Annapolis Summer Mens Outdoor Basketball League Friday.
First-year team Henry's Liquors stunned defending champion F-Force 39-34 in the highly competitive hoop circuit, which tipped off its 13th campaign at Truxtun Park.
Coached by Craig Brown, Henry's played under the name of Gomoljak's last year and won only three games, but with the addition of slick point guard Reggie Butler, the team is muchimproved.
Butler made quite an impact with 11 points in his Henry's debut.
Also, debuting was the colorful Annapolis High hoop coach John Brady, who would rather forget his opening night.
The silver-haired Brady is coaching Gunther's and his team was buried by expected contender Harris & Sons, 67-31.
Half of Brady's team are high schoolers who will play for him next year at Annapolis.
The coach is hoping the experience of playing up against very experienced men will make them better high school players.
The to-do over Annapolis varsity girls coach Teresa Ross, who was supposed to help coach Gunther's and become the first female coach in the league, never happened.