Western Charles pitcher Kurt Bruce knew what was coming after his team recorded the final out in the top of the ninth inning on Sept. 21 in the Coors Charles-St. Mary’s Baseball League championship game at Rainbow Construction field in La Plata to claim the league crown for the second consecutive season.
“I’m in the middle of the field, so I know I’m getting bum rushed, but I was just excited,” Bruce said. “We play for six months and then to finally win and achieve the goal, it was awesome.”
Bruce pitched a complete game and helped Western Charles claim its second consecutive championship with a 9-3 victory over Legion Post 255.
“Our pitching throughout the playoffs was outstanding,” Western Charles head coach Tony Stefko said. “Guys were going out of their way to extend themselves and give it up for the team.”
After trailing for much of the contest, Western Charles (19-9 overall) was able to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and three more in the eighth to pull away for the win.
“This was a war. This was two really good teams just battling it out. The last two games could have gone either way,” Stefko said. “They got it last time, and we were fortunate enough to get it this time. When you get to this point, the teams are great and everyone is stepping it up. You kind of just have to stick with it. I think that was the difference.”
The previous weekend, Legion Post 255 pitcher Dale Arbaugh was able to hold Western Charles to one run in a complete-game 3-1 win that forced Saturday’s winner take-all contest in the double-elimination tournament format.
On Sept. 21, Western Charles able to score eight runs on Arbaugh before relief pitcher CJ Hill was called upon to finish pitching the bottom of the eighth.
“We really stuck with it even though Arbaugh was pitching great,” Stefko said. “We just kind of waited it out a little bit and had some opportunities and finally broke through. That was really the difference.”
Legion (19-10) got off to an early lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI double by Arbaugh that scored Dakota Merritt. After advancing to third base on a throwing error, Arbaugh eventually was able to score on a wild pitch to put Legion in front 2-0.
Western Charles responded by getting one run back in the bottom of the first on an RBI groundout by Ricky Brady that scored Tyler Summers.
“The team just never gives up,” Bruce said. “Everyone stayed in the game and we knew that eventually we would come around. That comes with the age and the experience of being here. We never got down and knew we were going to come back.”
In the top of the third, Arbaugh’s RBI single scored Joe Sherman to put Legion Post 255 in front 3-1. Western Charles scored one run in the bottom of the fifth and added another run in the sixth to tie the contest at 3 with three innings left to play.
“I give them all the credit in the world. Our guys took it. It was a total team effort,” Stefko said. “No one got down and everyone stayed in there. We played good defense and hit the ball when we needed to, but our pitching really stood out. It gave us a chance in every single game.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Brady’s two-RBI line drive to right field scored Summers and Danny Lydon to put Western Charles in front for the remainder of the contest.
“We stayed tough. [Arbaugh] pitched really good,” Bruce said. “He was keeping our hitters off-balance. We just got some good timely hitting and made some good plays in the field, and that’s how you win ballgames.”
Summers led Western Charles with three hits, while Lydon, Brady and Jason Boyd each registered two. Brady led the team with three RBIs.
“I couldn’t be more proud of everybody and all the families that put a lot into this with all the sacrifices and time being away in the summertime,” Stefko said. “I am grateful that these guys can still come out here and do this on a regular basis.”
Arbaugh, Rudy Carrico and Jake Wood each had two hits to lead Legion.
“It was a pleasure coaching these guys all season,” Legion head coach Tyler Kimmey said.