State baseball championships

May 29, 2004|By Rick Belz and Jeff Seidel

At Joe Cannon Stadium

Today

No. 8 Liberty (19-3) vs. J.M. Bennett (19-2)

Class: 2A

Time: 3:30 p.m.

Outlook: Liberty made it to the final when Eastern Tech's 4-0 semifinal win over the Lions earlier this week was forfeited because of a violation of a state pitching rule. Wade Keenan and Shawn Houck were both 4-0 in the regular season and helped the Lions tie Thomas Johnson for first place in the Monocacy Valley Athletic League's Chesapeake Conference. Keenan also helped spark a Liberty offense that averaged more than seven runs during the regular season. Liberty's only other appearance in the final came when the Lions won the 3A crown in 1997. They moved to 2A this spring. J.M. Bennett has a good mix of pitching and hitting. Coach Hoot Gibson is still deciding whether to pitch Gordon Kretser (5-1), Sean Adams (6-1) or Ruben Rodrigues (5-0) against the Lions. Rodriguez also is the team's most potent hitter, with 38 hits and 30 RBIs. The Clippers have a .397 team batting average and 17 homers. This is their first trip to the final since 1986. They've never won a state championship.

No. 3 Centennial (20-4) vs. No. 7 C. Milton Wright (17-5)

Class: 3A

Time: 7 p.m.

Outlook: Good pitching is Centennial's hallmark. The Howard County-champion Eagles, state titlists in 2001, have eight shutouts and allowed more than three runs to Maryland teams only three times. Two losses were to New York teams. Left-hander Jon Dupski leads the staff with a 10-1 record. He beat Leonardtown, 4-2, in Wednesday's semifinal. C. Milton Wright pitcher Mike Roberts used his big curveball to three-hit Urbana, 2-0, in the other semifinal. Led by John Thurston and Caleb Cole, both with .500-plus averages, the Mustangs are more offensive-minded than Centennial. The Mustangs, who have never won a state title or made it to the state final before, have one shutout and have allowed more than three runs 12 times. But they have outscored Centennial, 181-146.

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