Next week at this time, the Severna Park Post 175 baseball team will be in Hagerstown awaiting the start of the American Legion State Tournament.
It's something new for this club, but the pressure of such a tournament is not. Many of the key members on this club have something to prove.
Severna Park Post 175 is primarily made up of players from this spring's powerhouse Severna Park High School team. The Falcons received national attention by being ranked most of the prep season in USA Today's Top 25 and was No. 1 locally in The Baltimore Sun's rankings.
However, the team never lived up to its billing and dropped the first game of the Class 4A Region IV playoffs to fourth-seeded Broadneck, 5-4. Severna Park was in the top seed, but the Bruins, led by Jeff Vincent and Matt Weimer, pulled off the season's most stunning upset.
Vincent and Weimer are what make this legion team different. Their presence on Post 175 appears to be the missing pieces to the puzzle.
"I think with Matt and Jeff added to our team this year, we have the pitching [depth] to win the state legion title, and after that, who knows?" says Severna Park manager Charlie Becker, whose pitching staff boasts a 2.80 ERA.
"The pitching and defense is there and if we hit enough, we can win it."
Severna Park clinched the local legion title for the first time in the league's three-year history with a 20-4 record, and earlier this week was 37-13 overall. Mayo Post 226 won the league the first two seasons and had won the state title in 1988 and 1989 before the formation of the local circuit.
Mayo went all the way in 1990, taking the national championship in Corvalis, Ore., 7-6, over Puerto Rico. It was only the third time a Maryland team had copped the coveted title in the 65-year history of the national tournament, and the first since a club from Cumberland took it in 1934.
Certainly, it's much too early to talk about a national championship for Severna Park, lest we forget the task at hand, winning the state crown.
Walter, who knows what it takes, believes Severna Park can win the state title and mildly disagrees with the cautiously optimistic Becker on Post 175's hitting attack.
"They've got seven guys in their lineup who can hit and they should score a lot of runs," said Walter.
It's not surprising that Becker is concerned about his hitting while opponents rave about the Severna Park bats. It's only natural for a manager to worry about his own team, and sometimes that makes a team bear down to relieve managerial stress.
"We're only hitting .288 as a team and that's what has me concerned," said Becker.
But when a club has four hitters like All-Metro outfielder Steve Neuberger, who is headed for the University of Maryland, second-team All-Metro catcher John Milisitz, pitcher/outfielder Matt Weimer and Vincent -- an All-Metro shortstop surrounded by several other big bats -- the worries don't linger.
Neuberger has picked up where he left off at the end of the high school season when he batted .491 with five dingers and scored a school-record 29 runs. This week, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound fly chaser was hitting .406 with six homers for the legion team.
Milisitz, who will be a senior this fall at Severna Park, is considered by many coaches and scouts to be the best all-around catcher in Maryland. This spring, the hard-nosed backstop led the county public school league in hitting with a .508 average, four homers and 20 RBI.
This summer, Milisitz is hitting .326 with seven homers and is throwing out nearly everyone who dares to try to steal a base.
Weimer is 5-0 as a pitcher and also has done a lot of damage with the bat. The former Bruins star, who will attend Penn State this fall, is batting a robust .370 with a club-leading nine homers.
"Matt has won a lot of tough games for us and also has two saves," said Becker.
Vincent, who is expected to attend Radford (Va.) University, is hitting over .300 and has five wins from the mound.
Also, second baseman Byron Druzgal, who returns for his senior year at Severna Park High, is hitting .364. He recently returned from a knee injury and is 2-0 as a pitcher.
Rob McCandless, another All-Metro player from Severna Park High, has been a key player, just as he was this spring for the Falcons. McCandless, who will join Vincent at Division I Radford, is hitting over .300 with a 5-1 pitching record and five saves.
McCandless was 8-0 with a 1.14 ERA this spring while batting .442 with six homers and 29 RBI. He's one of those guys who
always seems to be in the middle of the action and generally responds in positive fashion.
Glenn Shiring, another Severna Park High product who played at Anne Arundel Community College this spring, is 5-2.
Becker expected the likes of Weimer, Vincent, McCandless, Druzgal and Shiring to do what they have been doing on the mound this summer, but Broadneck's Chris Sutch has been a pleasant surprise.