The Maryland Cardinals 12-under baseball team knows how to win regular season games. Now it has to figure out how to win postseason tournaments.
The Cardinals, a travel team affiliated with Winfield Baseball, crushed the Mid-Atlantic Baseball Association's Piedmont Division this year. They were 23-0 in the regular season.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, coach Jeff Allen and his assistants Travis Winkles and Dan Trump, their mastery didn’t carry over into the postseason. They lost two of three games and were knocked out of the MABA postseason affair.
Most of the team has been together for three years; in fact all 12 players from 2017 were back this season. The Cardinals were fourth in 2017, and Allen felt they’d do well this time around.
He decided to keep his team in the less competitive Piedmont Division rather than move it up to the Atlantic.
“I kept them down so they could get extra work in different positions. They wouldn’t have gotten that in the higher division,” Allen said.
He, like some other coaches, believes that youngsters shouldn’t get locked into a position too early in their baseball careers. They should have the chance to try various positions to see where they’re best suited. And if they learn to play more than one spot well, all the better.
That versatility gives thedm a better chance to get playing time once they hit high school.
Their regular season, of course, was a great one. They dominated the statistics just as they did the won-lost column and the standings. The Cardinals scored 297 runs, over 70 more than the Lions who scored the second highest number of runs. They allowed only 66 runs, 35 less than the second-most stingy team, the third place Towsontowne T-Birds.
Until their final doubleheader when they beat the T-Birds 3-2 and 4-1 on June 10, the closest anybody ever got to them in the final score was six runs. And only three games were even that close.
They won 13 games by double-digit margins and notched five shutouts.
It starts with pitching, and the Cardinals had, what you might call, “deep depth,” as legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver used to say.
Nine of the 12 kids pitched at one time or another.
A primary hurler was Parker Allen, who was also third on the team with 36 RBIs. Other key pitchers included ERA leaders Kevin Hyde (1.50) and Jeremy Frattali (2.80), along with strikeout leaders Ryan Von Stein (32), Jake Winkles (25) and Tye Pruitt (22).
The 12 players, most of whom hail from the Sykesville-Eldersburg area, were a versatile lot, and they could play multiple positions well. The pitchers were particularly flexible.
Allen played shortstop as did mound partner Winkles. Spencer Trump, Frattali and Winkles played second base. Pruitt played third as did infielder Andrew Nelson and Charlie Carter who also played the outfield.
When he wasn’t pitching, Hyde caught as did Trump, Nelson and Spencer Tripp. At his two positions,Trump had the team’s best fielding average with a .960. Nelson was second with .940.
Hyde was also a force with the bat, leading the team in homers and RBIs (five and 44); he was third in batting (.526).
However, their overall record including tournaments was 27-5.
They batted .422 as a team and scored 392 runs, averaging more than 12 runs per game.
But while he recalled that the kids were down for awhile after the championship tournament, they recovered quickly. They are practicing for an upcoming tournament in Cooperstown that will match them against some of the best teams in the country.
Allen said his team has worked hard to raise money for the trip, and it has held a number of fundraisers.
Next year, they move up to MABA’s 13-under age bracket. And this time they plan to play in the Atlantic, the stronger of the two divisions.