Westminster's age 13 and 15 Babe Ruth teams have only a few more days to savor last week's three-game sweeps over Finksburg and North Carroll that netted them district championships.
This weekend, it's on to Frederick for the state Babe Ruth championships.
They will be joined there by Westminster's age 14 squad, which was automatically granted a state berth because Finksburg and North Carroll didn't field teams in that age bracket.
Matt Tozer and Ray Shipley, who coached the age 13 and 15 Ruth teams, respectively, expect tough sledding.
"They are [usually] teams that made it that far by beating somebody. The level of play there is better than in the districts," said Shipley.
Competition at the state level may be tough, but Shipley's Westminster age 13 team captured the title in 1990.
Most of his players are veterans of that squad.
Shipley said coaching strategy is changing with his team's change in age level. Game situations dictate that some of the youngsters become role players instead of full-timers as before.
"We're seeing a lot of teams put in designated players part of the game. Some boys are in for pitching, some for fielding and some for hitting," he said.
Regardless of the game situation, he said, "we'll need to keep a strong defense on the field at all times. You can't let pitchers get too deeply into trouble."
He said it is important to stay undefeated as long as possible to avoid the strain on the pitching staff that comes when a team drops into the losers' bracket of a double-elimination tournament.
"It will also keep the pressure off the kids," he added.
But Shipley expects some pressure anyway, because "the fans in Frederick are tough. It's a real baseball town," he said.
Tozer not only has to deal with the opposition, but also his players' relative inexperience.
He said most of his 13-year-olds were subs while older teammates on their respective squads in Westminster's 13-15 Babe Ruth League dominated playing time.
This left them little time to get to know the full-sized baseball diamond that most are playing on for the first time, not to mention things like holding runners on base and hitting the elusive curve ball -- problems they didn't have to have to address in Little League.
"We ran a lot of drills in practice. The biggest thing is repetition," Tozer said, adding that he also worked on where to throw the ball in certain game situations.
He said the drills paid off last week.
"Fortunately, we executed very well in the field. We only made a few errors."
Tozer said he expects the most competition from Frederick, Montgomery and Prince Georges' county squads, which he called "traditionally strong."
Nevertheless, he says he has no butterflys at the prospect of going to a Babe Ruth state tournament for the first time -- at least not yet.
"I'm really enjoying it," he said.
Here's a look at the Carroll teams first round schedule:
Westminster 13-year-old team vs. Mason-Dixon, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at McCurdy Field in Frederick; Westminster 14-year-olds vs. Prince Georges No. 2, 11 a.m. Monday at McCurdy; Westminster 15-year-olds vs. Kent County, 8 p.m. Friday at McCurdy; Carroll County 16-year-olds vs. Prince Georges No. 1-Prince George's No. 2 winner, 5 p.m. July 23 at Grove Stadium in Frederick; Carroll 16-18 year-olds vs. team to be determined, 8 p.m. July 22 at Grove Stadium.
From a local perspective, Saturday's Amateur Softball Association's state church softball championship tournament should be more fittingly dubbed "The Carroll County Massacre -- Part II".
Last year's ASA state church tourney at the Carroll County Sports Complex saw Eastern Shore squads sweep the three top spots, going 7-0 over Carroll teams in the process.
Saturday's rerun at the complex was almost a repeat.
Shore teams again swept the top three spots in the 14-team field, which included five victims from the Carroll County Church league.
Salisbury's St. Francis, Parkway Church of God and Church of the Nazarene placed first, second, and third, respectively.
St. John of Carroll County was fourth.