Joe Lomascolo may not be able to throw the way he did 18 years ago as a pitcher at the University of South Florida, but the Columbia resident can still excel on the baseball field.
Lomascolo, 39, and 12 other players of the Columbia Cardinals, an age 30-and-older baseball team, will compete this weekend in the men's senior baseball league invitational tournament in Hagerstown and Frederick. The Cardinals, made up of former high school and college players ranging in age from 30 to their mid-40s, play in the Howard County Plus 30 baseball league.
"I have lost something off my fastball, but you make it up through experience," said Lomascolo, player-coach of the Cardinals, who claims to have only lost 5 mph off his 80 mph fastball since college. Lomascolo is the squad's No. 1 starter. He compiled a 5-1 record, striking out 35 in 43 innings while posting a 3.14 ERA this season.
"In the past, the avenue for people above the 30s was just softball. Now they have an option to play softball or baseball. The guys take the games seriously. We practice every Wednesday night."
The two-day regional tournament features four Baltimore-area clubs: the Cardinals; the Broadneck Dodgers of Anne Arundel County; the Baltimore Birds over-30 team; and an over-40 Baltimore all-star team. Two teams from Pittsburgh, an over-30 squad and over 40-team, also will participate.
"All of the teams are top teams from their leagues," Lomascolo said. "Each team has members that played college or pro ball."
On Saturday, Columbia plays two games in Frederick. The Cardinals face the over-40 Baltimore team at noon, then play the Birds at 4 p.m. At Hagerstown on Sunday, Columbia challenges the over-30 Pittsburgh squad.
The games will be played at Hagerstown Municipal Stadium and Harry Grove Stadium in Frederick, home fields for the Baltimore Orioles Double-A and Single-A affiliates, the Hagerstown Suns and the Frederick Keys.
"It's a major thrill playing in professional stadiums," said Lomascolo, whose team plays its regular-season games on multipurpose fields at Cedar Lane and Rockburn parks in Columbia.
The Cardinals finished second in the league this summer behind Bethany Water Sports, with an 8-4-2 record in the A Division -- an improvement over last year's 8-7 record and third-place finish. Eleven of the team's 13 members live in Howard County. The Plus 30 league features five clubs in the A Division and seven in the the B Division.
Billy Ray, a former Baltimore Orioles farmhand (1969-70), returned to the lineup this summer after sitting out last year because of a sore arm. This season, Ray appeared in 11 games, and pitched 29 innings, giving up 21 hits. He registered 23 strikeouts and had a 2.79 ERA. Reliever Jim DeCarso is 1-1 with six saves.
Center fielder Pete Hughes leads the team in RBI (27) and home runs (7) and ranks third in batting average (.447). Catcher-infielder John Canterna (.462, 4 home runs, 10 RBI), first baseman Ray (.435, four, 17 RBI) and shortstop Phil Gaetano (.481) bolster the lineup. The Cardinals scored double figures in 6 of 14 games, and registered 20 or more runs three times.
"Its been a combination of pitching and hitting," Lomascolo said of the team's improvement. "Its not just one thing."