Glen Burnie wins first title, lifts school, too

Hecker pitches 4th win in playoffs as Gophers defeat Perry Hall, 3-1

Class 4A baseball

May 30, 1999|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Glen Burnie won its first state baseball championship by 3-1 over Perry Hall in the Class 4A final at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans Park yesterday. But as thrilling as that experience was alone, the win carried another important dimension, as well.

The title also was a victory for a school and community that have struggled through some tough times over the last couple years. School disturbances resulted in daily county police patrols and an ugly reputation.

On the field yesterday, just as they have all season, the No. 12-ranked Gophers (18-7) rode the rubber arm of senior Tim Hecker to victory. Hecker, 11-1 for the season, was the winner in four of the Gophers' five playoff wins, and he got a save in the other while pitching 27 1/3 innings in 13 days.

Yesterday, he scattered seven hits, struck out seven, and did not walk a batter for Anne Arundel County schools' third straight Class 4A title. The title was a Maryland-record 19th for county schools -- 13 in Class 4A -- since the state tourney began in 1975.

Off-field, longtime coach Bruce Sider, a 1971 Glen Burnie graduate and three-year varsity catcher, saw the title game as an opportunity to change the school and community's tarnished image.

"I'm so proud of the way the kids have projected the Glen Burnie High School image," said Sider, a physical-education teacher and assistant athletic director at the school whose 19th season as baseball coach was a title-winner.

"The community support -- county support -- has been overwhelming over the last week, unbelievable. This baseball team has done something positive at a time when the school really needed it."

The sizable turnout of Glen Burnie fans, students, alumni, former players, parents and residents validated Sider's feelings as the Gophers topped a Perry Hall team that was gunning for its fourth 4A state title of the 1990s.

The No. 15 Gators (12-12) last won the state crown in 1994 and were runner-up to Arundel in 1995.

Perry Hall right-hander Dan Markley, one of only two senior starters for the Gators, showed he was much better than the 1-5 record he brought into the final. He scattered seven hits, struck out four, walked two and hit a batter in six innings.

Glen Burnie scored a run in the second inning on back-to-back doubles by Matt "Hooter" Smith and freshman right-fielder Keith Williams. Markley then buckled down and left Williams stranded.

The Gators tied the score 1-1 in the top of the fourth on a bases-loaded grounder by George Kastanaras that scored designated hitter Brian Vecchioni.

The run snapped Hecker's string of 16 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in the playoffs, as he showed signs of tiring.

But from that point on, though, he was never really in trouble. He got the shot of adrenalin he needed when his teammates regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Andy Bonn.

Williams' single to right in the sixth gave the Gophers' an insurance run.

Perry Hall left one runner on in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. In their final at-bat, leadoff hitter Robby Ibex doubled to right-center with two outs, but Hecker struck out sophomore Shawn Warner swinging on a 1-2 pitch to clinch the title.

"He had three different pitches [fastball, curve, change], and we haven't seen too many with three pitches," said Perry Hall coach Elmer McCann of Hecker. "And they took advantage of our mistakes."

Said Hecker, who threw strikes 71 percent of the time yesterday: "I pitched a lot of innings this year and made the pitches when I had to today."

Glen Burnie was a state semifinalist in 1977 under Terry Bogle, whom Sider succeeded in 1980.

"We beat Arundel three times that year before they got us in the semifinals," recalled Tony Dailey, an All-Metro center fielder and California Angels minor-leaguer who was one of many former players rooting for their alma mater.

"This is great to see our school finally win it," Dailey said. "We're all very proud."

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