WOODBINE -- The jinx is dead.
That was the feeling of Sykesville manager Bill Baker after Sunday's 9-7 verdict over Gamber at Salt Box Park to clinch the Carroll County Firemen's Softball League post-season tournament title.
A crucial fielding play and the power of shortstop Chuck Bittorie were the major ingredients in breaking Gamber's three-year post-season hold over the Sykesville smoke-chasers.
In two of the previous three years, Gamber had defeated Sykesville in the tournament's championship game.
Baker said Gamber just gives Sykesville fits.
"When we play them, we just don't seem to hit," he said. They didn't hit much in the final winners' bracket game, either. Gamber, though, hit even less, as Sykesville prevailed, 5-2.
Gamber then demolished Winfield, 14-2, in Sunday afternoon's final losers' bracket game and faced Sykesville again, having to win twice to take the title.
But while Sykesville was the Firemen's League regular-season champ and Gamber was second, the latter's post-season hex seemed as strong as ever.
In the first meeting Sunday afternoon, Sykesville looked every bit like the loser it had been in those previous tournament showdowns with Gamber, as it fell meekly before a 22-hit Gamber barrage.
With Eddie Yingling getting four hits and Brandan Gable and pitcher-manager Jim Stickles three, Gamber scored in every inning to win, 16-6.
The only notable Sykesville blows were two Bittorie homers.
These weren't much help, but his slugging would be more meaningful in the upcoming match.
Stickles said he expected a tougher second game.
"They were a little cold sitting out this morning [while Gamber played Winfield.] We knew they'd warm up. It's always a good game when we play Sykesville."
In the first inning, Bittorie warmed up quickly with his third consecutive homer -- a three-run shot.
The resulting 3-0 Sykesville lead helped break Gamber's momentum, Baker said. "It worked on their minds. It put them in a deficit," he said.
But Gamber struck back with six runs in the top of the second inning with Eddie Yingling's two-run single a key hit. But Sykesville went ahead, 7-6 in the home second.
Ronnie Green's single tied it 7-7 in the sixth inning. But in that same inning, Sykesville made the biggest defensive play of the game.
Here, Todd Leppert was thrown out at the plate as he tried to score the go-ahead run from second base on Stickles' line single to right.
Sykesville right-fielder Rick Webber fielded the ball, threw to second-baseman Barry Poff, who rifled a strike to catcher Herb Lowe for the putout.
"That one hurt," said Stickles, although he also said he thought Leppert was safe.
In any event, Sykesville put the game away in the home sixth.
Not wishing to deal with Bittorie, Stickles gave him a one-out intentional walk.
But the Sykesville slugger still burned Gamber when he later scored the tie-breaking run on Bob Chesney's single up the middle.
4 The ninth Sykesville run was scored on an error.
The winners then turned a snappy pitcher-to-shortstop-to-first double play to close out Gamber in the final frame.
Stickles felt his team's bats simply went cold after the second inning. "When we hit, we hit," he said. "If we don't, we don't."
Understandably glad to win, Baker was also happy about something else.
"I think we broke the jinx," he said.