Meltdown makes team rock-solid Baseball: Big things were expected of Havre de Grace this spring, but the Warriors got off to an 0-2 start. Then came a fiery meeting in center field. Could a state title be in the school's future?

May 01, 1998|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

After an 0-2 start, Havre de Grace coach Joe Oswald sent a scorching message to a Warriors' team that was ranked No. 17 in preseason by The Sun.

"He took our whole team to center field, burned a marshmallow and a jelly bean, and said, 'You can be like that, if you want to, and melt away or burn out,' " said pitcher Chad Blevins. "But he couldn't burn a rock. So, now it hangs in our dugout every game as a symbol."

Since then, the Warriors have been rock-solid.

At 15-3 (7-0 in Harford County), now 16th-ranked Havre de Grace has won 11 straight games under fifth-year coach Oswald, including four games this week in as many days. The Warriors have come from behind to win six games and broken late ties in two others, scoring 166 runs and out-hitting their opponents on average by 2-to-1.

"In the nine years I've been here [including four as an assistant], we never had beaten C. Milton Wright. We've done it twice this year," said Oswald. "We have a nice lineup, good senior leadership. But preseason, they thought all they had to do was show up. You could say we've talked things out, but we still haven't accomplished our goals."

The Warriors already have surpassed last year's win total, when they were 14-4, losing only by 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs to eventual state champ Rising Sun.

Blevins hit .500, earning The Sun's Harford County's Player of the Year honors. His 33 RBIs, six home runs and 30 runs scored all were Harford County highs.

Center fielder-pitcher Jason Kingsley and first baseman Jason Bauer each hit over .350 last season and combined for seven homers and 43 RBIs. Kingsley and Matt Blethan are both left-handed power pitchers, with Blethan having last year struck out 44 batters over 32 innings.

"We're pretty lucky to have two lefties," Blethan said. "It gives other teams a lot to worry about."

In 17 games, Blethan is 5-1 with 63 strikeouts on the mound, and he's hitting .490 with 26 RBIs.Kingsley is 6-2 with 61 strikeouts, and hits .348 with 20 RBIs.

A pitcher-shortstop, Blevins hit .558 with 17 RBI, eight doubles, two triples and 21 runs scored. The 6-foot tall, 190-pounder is 2-0 on the mound with a 1.90 ERA.

Kingsley is the No. 1 batter in the lineup, followed by left fielder Matt Grissom, who is hitting .327 with 20 runs scored, two doubles, a triple and a home run and, defensively, only two errors. Blevins and Blethan are next, followed by the No. 5 batter -- 6-3, 240-pound southpaw Bauer, whose .340 average includes a team-high six home runs and 23 RBIs.

Catcher Brad Spence has contributed nicely from the sixth spot in the order with a .393 average, a double, a triple, two home runs and 18 RBIs. Defensively, Spence has thrown out eight of 10 runners attempting to steal bases.

Joe Schiavi, the No. 9 batter, hits .355, No. 8 Bryan Slagle hits .346 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs, and Merrill Dougherty hits .393.

Oswald said the team gets "excellent leadership" from Blethan, a B-student with an 1,100 SAT score, and Blevins, a 3.5 student with a 980 SAT. Blethan has a scholarship to West Virginia. Blevins will attend Shepherd (W. Va.) College.

"They're a blessing to have around, They compete all year," Oswald said. "Their enthusiasm's contagious to the rest of the kids."

Yet, adds Blevins, "No one's above anyone. We had a team meeting at my house, preseason. We couldn't wait to get started. There's a full commitment from everyone."

Pub Date: 5/01/98

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