2016 55+ ‘Ring’ Division

All-Star Baseball Academy 2, South. Maryland Titans 0

‘Boyd Gem Brings Down Favored Titans’

By Chris Errington, special to MSBL National

November 5, 2016, Bright House Field, Clearwater, FL – It took one of the greatest pitching performances in recent Fall Classic history to beat one of its greatest teams.

Willy Boyd, utilizing a mixture of pitches and every inch of the strike zone, tossed a one-hitter and faced only three batters over the minimum in a masterful display. His ability to consistently keep Southern Maryland hitters off-balance, coupled with Mike Homer’s two-out, two-strike, two-run single to center in the eighth inning were the difference as All-Star Baseball Academy captured its first title in just its second year of tournament competition.

“We had Willy pitch earlier in the week and it was a gem,” All-Star Baseball Academy manager John Stefanik said. “I knew he had the ability to give us another one just like it today.”

Incredibly, if not for one casual conversation before the tournament even started, none of this would have been possible.

Teammate Dave Cooper mentioned to Stefanik, whose team is based in Philadelphia, that a team from the Pittsburgh area wouldn’t be attending this year’s tournament. Cooper asked if the manager would be interested in utilizing a few of that team’s players, including Boyd. Stefanik graciously accepted the offer and the seeds of a Fall Classic championship were sewn.

“I didn’t even know Willy or a number of these guys before the tournament,” Stefanik said. “But from the way they came together as a team, you wouldn’t know they hadn’t played together before.”

Like seasoned veterans, All-Star Baseball Academy dispatched all six of its round-robin opponents, then blasted the DC Express, 9-2 behind Greg Goehring’s complete-game effort. However, all that earned it was a date with one of the tournament’s most dominant opponents.

The Southern Maryland Titans entered tournament play as two-time defending champions and through the first six games appeared unwilling to allow opponents to entertain even the remotest thought of them relinquishing that title. In fact, they seemed to only get better.

The Titans destroyed their five round-robin opponents by a combined score of 80-4, then dispatched the Montgomery County Yankees in the semifinals. In position to win a third consecutive championship, Southern Maryland looked nearly unbeatable. Until it met Boyd.

“Our guys played hard, but give [Boyd] credit.” Titans’ manager Mike Steinhauser said. “He did an outstanding job against us. I saw him pitch before, so I knew it was going to be tough for us.

“We just never put anything together against him.” Southern Maryland’s only base runners came via Mike McGlaughlin’s first-inning, one-out double to right and an error and hit batsman in the third. No Titans reached third base all game and, after Boyd induced a fly out to squelch the modest threat in the third, no other Southern Maryland hitter reached base. Boyd retired the final 19 Titans he faced, capping the incredible 108-pitch performance with three harmless ninth-inning ground outs.

“I knew [Southern Maryland] was good, so I just wanted to keep them off-balance,” Boyd said. “Away and soft, hard and in, keep getting ahead. That’s the way it went. I’ve been [in championship games] before, so there was no pressure. I knew as long as we made the plays defensively, we’d win.” Still, for all of Boyd’s heroics, the game remained scoreless heading into the eighth as Southern Maryland starter Jim Kearschner matched him zero for zero. Until the eighth.

Dave Calder reached on a one-out walk and went to third on a single to right-center by Gary D’Ambrisi, who took second on the throw. When Kearschner got a shallow fly out to center and two quick strikes on Homer, it appeared he’d escape the threat. That’s when the eventual tournament MVP capped a stellar week. After hitting better than .500 for the tournament, Homer laced a fastball to center, plating pinch runner Mike Blankenship and D’Ambrisi for the only runs Boyd would need. “Normally I don’t’ shorten up my swing with two strikes, so I didn’t want to that time either,” Homer said. “[Kearschner] threw me a slider the pitch before for a strike and I guess he thought I’d be looking for another one. I just wanted to barrel up and get at least one guy in. As soon as I hit it, I knew we had the lead.”

When it was over and Boyd had recorded the final outs, Stefanik found it difficult to come to grips with what his team had accomplished in such a short period. “It really is overwhelming,” he said, “and I probably won’t realize how big this is until I’m home. I tell guys all the time that, ‘I never play for a ring. I just want good guys in the dugout and the wins will take care of themselves. What’s most important are the memories and this is one none of us will forget.’”

All-Star Academy        000      000      020 – 2 7 1

Southern Maryland     000      000      000 – 0 1 2

WP: Boyd (2-0). LP: Kearschner. 2B: McGlaughlin (SM). Pitching: Boyd and Steel (ASA). Kearschner and Kelley (SM).