One year after it had to climb through the losers’ bracket to capture the Coors Charles-St. Mary’s Baseball League championship, Western Charles is in the driver’s seat in its bid to repeat this summer.
Western Charles finished in a three-way tie for second with Legion Post 255 and Indian Head during the regular season, but the reigning champions were the only team to emerge from last weekend’s play in unblemished fashion. League regular season champion St. Mary’s dropped both of its contests and was eliminated last Sunday afternoon to finish the season at 19-7 overall combining regular season and postseason.
“Last year we lost the first game of the tournament and then had to win out from there to win the championship,” said Western Charles manager Tony Stefko, whose team will play for the title at 1 p.m. Sunday at Rainbow Construction field in La Plata against the winner of Saturday’s Legion Post 255-Indian Head contest, scheduled for 1 p.m. at Rainbow). “This year we were able to win both of our games last weekend and stay out of the losers’ bracket and now we will just wait to see who we face on Sunday.”
Saturday, Western Charles (18-8) defeated Legion Post 255 (17-9), 13-3, and Indian Head (18-9) roughed up St. Mary’s, 13-6, one month after the same two teams, using the same two starting pitchers, battled to a 1-0 affair. Then on Sunday, Legion Post 255 eliminated St. Mary’s, 5-4, while Western Charles emerged from the winners’ bracket unscathed with a 7-3 victory over Indian Head.
“I think they out-hit us, but we just had more timely hits,” Stefko said. “It was a very close game. With only three teams left, any team can win it. Last Sunday against Indian Head just happened to be our day. No matter which team we get this Sunday, we’re facing a quality opponent.”
In the play-in game on Sept. 4 at Laurel Springs Regional Park in La Plata, Indian Head defeated the Hyper Bombers (11-14) 9-7 to earn a spot in the main portion of the playoffs. Only the Black Sox (6-18) and Mechanicsville (0-24) were on the outside looking in when the postseason double-elimination got under way. The Black Sox reached the championship round of the 2018 tournament before eventually falling to Western Charles.
“We were able to get enough runs to get past the Hyper Bombers in the play-in game, then we came out swinging the bats well against St. Mary’s,” Indian Head pitcher/shortstop Charlie Wright said. “One month earlier, we beat them 1-0, but the other day we swung the bats well and scored plenty of runs. On Sunday [against Western Charles], I thought we were a little unlucky. We had a lot of hard liners that were right at somebody.”
St. Mary’s finished three games clear of Western Charles, Legion Post 255 and Indian Head during the regular season, but the league regular season champions were unable to win a game during last weekend and were eliminated in two games. It was a tough end for a squad that had all of its key players in place for the postseason and left coach Drew Willard somewhat baffled.
“In previous years we lost some guys for the playoffs, but these past two years we’ve had everyone available for the postseason,” Willard said. “We sent our best pitcher, Greg Conden, out there on Saturday against Indian Head and I think they had 20 hits against us. I don’t think they had a total of 20 hits in the four games were played them this season. Then, for some reason we can never seem to get past Legion Post 255.”
Indian Head and Legion Post 255 will play one another on Saturday with the winner of that game will return on Sunday to face Western Charles. If Western Charles prevails on Sunday, they will garner their second straight league title, but if the Indian Head-Legion Post 255 winner upends Western Charles on Sunday, those two teams will return for an “if” championship game next Saturday.
“We will have a lot of fresh arms ready for Sunday,” Stefko said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean we will clinch the title that day. All three of these teams left are really even. We’re expecting a close game on Sunday and we’re hoping to clinch it then. But we might have to come back the following Saturday and play those same guys again.”