Severn Post 276 took advantage of its unexpected entrance into the Maryland State American Legion state tournament and a stellar performance by pitchers Dan Owmby and Michael Smell to capture its opening contest with a 4-3 victory against Garrett Post 71/214 at the Allegany County Fairgrounds in Cumberland.
Ownby allowed three runs, one earned, with four strikeouts in his seven innings of work. Smell then closed the door with two scoreless innings of relief work for the save. He struck out the side to clinch the game to propel Severn (21-16) into Thursday's 1 p.m. contest against two-time defending champion Funkstown Post 211, which defeated Laurel Post 60, 8-6, Wednesday.
"Ownby got stronger as the game went on," said Post 276 manager Frank Hood, who is also the Arundel High coach. "He started to pound the zone and gain command over his secondary pitches. He went down 3-0, but he kept putting up zeroes to allow us to get the lead. Smell was outstanding in his two innings. He was a nice change of pace."
Offensively, Elijah Santana collected two hits and knocked in a run; Cole Buehner had three hits; and Garrett Stanard drove in a pair of runs for Severn, which must win against Funsktown to continue its tournament run as the state officials changed from a double-elimination format to single elimination.
"It's going to be real tough," said Hood of besting Funkstown. "They just won 8-6 against Laurel. They can hit and their second baseman is outstanding. It's going to be a pretty tough game."
Severn finished second in the Jim Carey League this summer with an 11-9 mark, but it received the state tournament bid when Severna Park Post 175 was declared ineligible because of an inadvertent American Legion rules violation.
Post 175 manager Robert Hallett said the rule effected the eligibility of Severna Park High graduate Spencer Dietrich, who made the Severna Park legion roster a year ago but sat out because of a sore arm. Legion rules state that a player who has graduated high school must continue playing on the same team without a break to remain eligible.
"If you don't play, you are deemed ineligible," said Hallett, whose squad finished the season at 30-5 overall, 19-2 in league play. "They gave us seven days to get a doctor's note but we couldn't get one in time so we had to forfeit every game (Dietrich appeared in)."
Severna Park still had enough league wins to earn the state playoff nod, but any team that forfeits twice in the same season is not eligible for postseason play.
"We didn't have enough time," Hallett said. "It was the last week of the season. The doctor was on vacation or something. We sent in medical records but they wanted a person handwritten note."