Baseball: County's American Legion teams ready for summer

Baseball: County's American Legion teams ready for summer
Sykesville's Brandon Shipley pitches against Mount Airy during American Legion baseball action at Liberty High School on July 15, 2017. (Ken Koons / Carroll County Times)

Summer is already here for those involved with American Legion baseball in Mount Airy and Sykesville.

The county’s two legion teams have started their 2018 seasons. Gold Star Post 191 is 4-0, and Post 223 tied the one game it has played so far. Coaches from both squads say the goal is the same — improve on last year’s performance and compete for a Western Maryland District championship, which leads to a state tournament bid.


“We’re off to a solid start,” said Mount Airy manager Tripp Staley. “The key to success for us is going to be doing the small things right. We’re not a team that’s going to be hitting the ball over the fence, not a team that’s going to be amazing offensively. I mean, we have the capability of doing that. But to sustain that type of offensive attack all year is really tough to do.”

Staley said Post 191 instead will rely on a well-rounded offense. So far, so good — Mount Airy has 42 runs, an average of 10.5 per game, while allowing only 12.

“We’re really working to see how we can generate more runs,” Staley said.

Gold Star Post 191 is coming off a 25-win season with the addition of some of the legion’s junior league players that helped win a state championship in 2017. The senior team missed out on qualifying for the state tournament, and Staley pointed to a sobering statistic — Post 191 lost nine one-run games a year ago.

Helping try to reverse that trend this summer is a core of players with South Carroll ties.

Staley said recent graduate Josh Kaye, a Times first-team all-county pick, is one of Mount Airy’s pitchers in his rotation. So is David Rivizzigno, a 2017 SC graduate. Also on the roster are recent grads Griffin Gill, Dan McGuire, Reed Schumaker, and Chris Thomas.

Staley said Post 191 didn’t jell enough last year, but he has already seen a difference this season. Mount Airy heads to West Virginia this weekend for a tournament, and travels to Winchester, Virginia, for a doubleheader on Father’s Day. Then it’s the Western Maryland District opener June 19 against Funkstown, the reigning league champion.

“They are a group of guys that want each other to be successful,” Staley said. “That in itself breeds success. Hopefully that’s a step in the right direction for our guys.”

Mount Airy's Josh Kaye hits a single in the fourth inning during their game against Annapolis Post 7 on June 30, 2017.
Mount Airy's Josh Kaye hits a single in the fourth inning during their game against Annapolis Post 7 on June 30, 2017. (Paul W. Gillespie / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Sykesville is hoping to take similar strides in 2018. Post 223 went 14-18-1 last season, up from the 12 wins it had in 2017. Sykesville will be led by Todd Fletcher and George Richardson III, who called the Western Maryland District the toughest American Legion league in the state.

Post 223 will compete with a deep pitching staff, Richardson said, led by recent South Carroll graduate Jonathan Money, Cavs junior Jacob Rostkowski, and Westminster juniors Hunter Barber and Nathan Barber.

Sykesville’s roster also includes Winters Mill senior Deion Blackburn and Manchester Valley senior Caleb Ludwig, another Times first-team all-county choice.

“With the talent we have, things have definitely progressed,” Richardson said. “And we’re getting a year older. This year it’s not as many that we have to bring up from the junior team. So that maturity part will be key.”

Richardson said Post 223 has a wealth of players who can play multiple positions, which should be a positive for getting through summer weeks filled with games. Sykesville is in a Father’s Day weekend tournament in Allegany County before opening league play June 19 at Frederick Post 11.

“They’re buying into that, through hard work and seeing improvement, that things will keep working out,” Richardson said. “A lot of them played in the fall. They seem to like each other.”