Frederick rattles off four straight wins from losers bracket for runner-up finish
It's a 14-and-a-half-hour drive from Frederick to Southaven, Miss. That's a long way to go just to lose some baseball games.
Head coach Wayne Main and the Frederick Hustlers' 16-and-under team didn't want that to be their story. The Maryland State Dizzy Den champs didn't want to arrive at the biggest tournament of their summer, the Dizzy Dean World Series, play a couple contests and get back on the bus.
But after dropping their first game in Southaven last month, the Hustlers were in danger of just that. Something needed to click for them after they wound up on the wrong side of an 8-2 decision to the Texas state champions July 23, their first day of play, and quickly fell into the loser's bracket.
To avoid an early exit from the tournament they'd won as 15-year-olds last summer, they'd need to play near-perfect ball.
"Obviously we didn't want to be in that situation where we were on the outside looking in, but we were," Main said. "We knew we had to play every game well to have a chance, but I think we thought we had a chance to do that."
The Hustlers needed to play flawless baseball to have any shot of emerging from the loser's bracket to challenge for the championship--and that's exactly what they did, rattling off four straight wins before falling in the title game to a team from Bonifay, FL., 13-6.
"Finishing second was a pretty big accomplishment considering our 16U team returned only three starters from last year's World Series championship team," said Main, singling out Middletown High's Ty Main, Brunswick's Aaron Main and Frederick's Wes Gross.
In the stifling conditions of Mississippi in July--the temperature was well over 100 degrees at times, Main said--Maryland's representatives recovered their composure after their initial loss by posting back-to-back one-run victories over the next two days. The Hustlers rebounded with a 5-4 victory over Grenada, MS., by scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning on a double by Jake Atherly and a single by Josh Meikrantz. Then they dismissed Jasper, Tenn., 2-1, when Mark Darlington smacked a leadoff triple in the bottom of the sixth to rally Frederick.
"We played baseball in like 105-degree heat, it was like walking into a furnace, and we still played well," Wayne Main said.
Out of the furnace, into the fire. The Hustlers put themselves in good position to make a run at the title when they toppled Harpersville, Ala., 4-0 on July 26, thanks to Aaron Main's complete-game effort. That win forced a rematch later in the day with the squad from Lufkin, TX., and this time Frederick was ready.
Gross held Texas to three runs on five hits over six frames, striking out three, and the Hustlers came back from a run down in the third with RBIs from Brad Thompson (two doubles), Darlington (three hits including a triple), Ty Main and Atherly.
"We played a lot of great baseball," Wayne Main said. "There was a lot of concern after that first game, and we just played two great games and then we were on a bit of a roll.
"In that 4-0 game Aaron Main just pitched an incredible game ... and we knew that if we won that game we could beat Texas. [And] Wes Gross pitched a wonderful game [against Texas]."
Frederick had made it to the final but because Florida was undefeated, the Hustlers needed to win two. It never got that far.
The Hustlers were behind from the start and found themselves trailing, 9-0, in the fifth inning. A five-run rally in that stanza, fueled by hits from Ty Main, Aaron Main, Darlington and Thompson, was just enough to make things interesting as Florida recovered with three more runs in the top of the sixth to all but settle the matter.
Pitching was Frederick's strength in their run for a title this summer, and it proved to be their best weapon in the tournament, with Aaron Main and Wes Gross splitting the majority of time on the mound and doing it admirably. Main pitched 12 innings and allowed just one earned run, striking out nine and walking just two while allowing 12 hits; and Gross threw 13 innings, striking out 11 and walking five while surrendering 18 hits.
"They're the kind of guys who have that mindset--they want to throw in big games, and we really rode their two arms," Wayne Main said.
Ty Main, Darlington and Thompson also saw time out front, combining to throw 16 innings, strike out 11 and allow just two walks.
Darlington, a student at Musselman High in W.Va., led the Hustlers at the plate with seven RBI and a .522 average. Ty Main also knocked in seven runs while posting a .467 and .600 on-base percentage--which, along with his pitching stats, earned him co-Most Valuable Player honors with Bonifay's Mark Smith.
"It was a great tournament," Wayne Main said. "I'm thrilled for everybody involved."
Thompson (.333) and Athlerly (.316) also earned kudos from their coach for timely hitting.
Notes: The Hustlers were 29-12 this year after capturing first place in the Baltimore Metro League and claiming the state Dizzy Dean championship with wins over Anne Arundel, Frederick American Junior Legion and the Forest Hill Storm. ... The Hustlers' 18-and-under squad also appeared at the Dizzy Dean World Series, dropping their first game 3-2 to eventual champion Shelby County, AL.; beating Tallahassee, Fla., 9-0; and finally being eliminated by the Virginia Storm, 3-0.