Baseball life is good when you're 10 games over .500.
It was evident from the noise emanating from the home team's dugout Friday morning at Lindsay Browning Field, where Mount Airy hosted Annapolis Post 7 in American Legion action. Gold Star Post 191 defeated the Admirals 7-3 and improved to 17-7 on the summer season.
The players rarely stopped chirping between pitches, whether they were cheering for their teammates or doing their best to rattle the opposition. Upbeat music blared from the public address system during breaks in the game, and several Mount Airy players had their own walk-up music as they strode to the plate.
From Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold" to the first few seconds of "Circle of Life" from "The Lion King," Post 191's players spun tunes and strung together enough runs to hold off Annapolis in the first game of Mount Airy's Fourth of July weekend tournament.
Mount Airy had dropped three of four before Friday morning's victory, and Gold Star Post 191 is set to play teams from Winchester, Va., and Marietta, Ohio on Saturday. Severna Park faces Mount Airy on Sunday, and the tourney concludes Monday with a championship game.
Of course, these games don't mean as much as the ones played within the Western Maryland District — Mount Airy is 3-4 so far. There's the contests of which wins are needed to advance to the state tournament in late July.
"Our biggest strength, honestly, is our pitching," said Post 191 manager Tripp Staley. "We're very talented offensively, but in baseball you can't rely 100 percent on your offense. You've got to play the other two aspects of the game. Our pitching has kept us in baseball games all year long."
One of Staley's main arms comes from Josh Kaye, a rising senior at South Carroll High School who earned Times first-team all-county honors in the spring. Kaye is one of two recent SC graduates playing for Post 191 ties — David Rivizzigno is on the roster, and Staley said he's used as a relief pitcher but had a spot start last weekend.
The rest of Mount Airy's squad is made up of players from Frederick County schools.
Kaye played left field Friday but has shined on the mound, going 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.
"Josh is one of our top guys in the rotation," Staley said. "We've been really impressed with him ... he's been doing everything for us."
Rivizzigno played on Mount Airy's junior team last year while Kaye came from another travel team. Kaye said it didn't take too long to make the transition because of the "family" atmosphere surrounding Post 191.
Kaye also credited pitching coach Ryan Beckwith for working well with the entire staff and helping the throwers stay fresh coming out of the high school season.
"It's a whole different level, definitely more competitive," Kaye said. "Everyone gets along with everyone. The chemistry gets together and all in all, it's just fun. A good baseball season."
Staley would agree about the season, with one caveat — the team's sub-par district record. Mount Airy had a chance to surpass the .500 mark Thursday night in Funkstown, but the home team prevailed 1-0.
In the 10th inning.
On a suicide squeeze play.
Perhaps that's part of the reason for Friday morning's festive feel. Maybe Mount Airy's players tried hard to leave the stinging road loss behind them and put together some non-district wins this weekend.
Graham King powered Post 191 past Annapolis with two doubles and four RBIs, while Dominic Bianchini had three hits and scored twice. Max Proctor tossed a complete game and worked his way out of a few jams while Mount Airy's defense did enough to back him up.
Kaye made a nice running catch in left-center to start the fifth inning, and catcher Johnny Parilla picked off a baserunner at first for the final out of the fourth.
Noah Mitchell had three hits for Post 7 while pitcher C.J. Brown had two hits and an RBI. Mount Airy led 4-0 after the first inning, however, and never looked back.
Gold Star Post 191 resumes its Western Maryland play July 6 against Woodsboro, which is 2-0 against Mount Airy this summer.
Last year's senior team qualified for the state tournament. This year's tourney is three weeks away, and Staley said Post 191 has some work to do before planning a return trip.
"It could be better in district play," Staley said, "but we're getting there."