When Old Mill baseball coach Mel Montgomery spoke last month of how opposing teams would be gunning for his inexperienced Patriots, he said, "It can be fun or it can be a headache. We'll see which way it goes."
The season had been a blast until yesterday, when Glen Burniepitcher Tony Saunders ruined a perfectly good time.
Saunders tossed a two-hit shutout and retired the last 14 battershe faced, as the Gophers routed visiting Old Mill, 9-0, in the Friendship Division opener for both teams.
The Patriots brought a 4-0 record into the game, but Saunders (1-2) countered with a full complement of pitches, some added strength and a dose of much-needed confidence.
The senior left-hander was the pitcher of record in losses toArchbishop Curley, 6-5, and Northeast, 7-6. Both times, he simply ran out of gas after the fifth inning. But not this time.
"Those were my games to win or lose, and they just came out ahead," he said. "This time, my confidence built up after the first couple of innings, and I had it through the whole game. I never went down after that."
Only the Patriots went down -- in order. The only hits were singles by Mike Mahoney in the second inning and Phil McGinnis in the third. Saunders didn't walk a batter and threw just 84 pitches.
The last Old Mill hitter to reach base was Lee Haney, who was safe at first when Saunders made an errant throw trying to cut down McGinnis at second on a tapper to the mound.
"He's had three good efforts," said Glen Burnie coach Bruce Sider, whose team is 3-3 overall. "This is the first time that we've really rallied behind him defensively. He only had 65 pitches after four innings. The other two games, he was up around 120 pitches (at the end)."
"All my pitches were working, and that's probably why I was successful," said Saunders, who relied mainly on his fastball and change-up and mixed in an occasional curve. "Itseemed everything I threw went for a strike today."
After Mahoney's single, Ryan Dempsey was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second with no outs. But Saunders, who transferred to Howard High as a junior before returning to Glen Burnie last fall, struck out Brian Jones and retired Andrew Lewis and Kenny Pumphrey to end the inning.
Old Mill put two runners on in the third, but again, Saunders slammed the door -- this time by striking out Ryan Scott and snaring a Mahoney liner up the middle.
"At times, he was sneaky-fast, but hewasn't overpowering," Montgomery said of Saunders. "With our hitters, we should have hit him a little bit better. He just kept them off-balance."
Old Mill's Pumphrey, a sophomore right-hander, made his first start on the mound after winning two games in relief. He went three innings and faced three batters in the fourth before departing with the bases loaded, no outs and Glen Burnie ahead, 2-0.
Reliever Jeff Haynie, also a sophomore, allowed a two-run single to Jason Soistman, an RBI double to Saunders and an RBI single to Dave Lanham thatincreased the lead to 6-0. Five of the runs were charged to Pumphrey, who gave up four hits and walked four.
"Pumphrey wasn't hitting the corners and he was having to groove the ball too much and things didn't happen for him," Montgomery said.
Haynie gave up three runsin the sixth on a throwing error and a two-run double by Saunders. Junior right-hander Jeff Robinson relieved Haynie and retired the nextthree hitters.
Glen Burnie scored twice in the first. Shannon Cavey lofted a triple to right that scored pinch-runner Jerry Poist, andRobert Rogers followed with a single to right.
"We need to win everything we can," Sider said. "We lost a couple of games we should have won, and that was tough to swallow. Any win is a good win at this point."