Doug Goodson certainly picked the right season to become coach of the Westminster Mustangs because they were ready to break out and romp. This year, they became the undefeated champions of the Carroll County Stallions 15-18 Baseball League.
They were 11-0-1 in the regular season, and then they swept their three June postseason tournament playoff games.
Goodson was an assistant coach for the Mustangs last year when they had a solid 11-3 regular season record. But in the postseason tournament which included all nine league teams, they went 2-2 and finished fourth.
However, better things were on the way. And their new head coach would be the beneficiary.
There were also six new players on the Mustangs' 15-man roster this year. The large roster was needed because the players, all from the Westminster area, often had other commitments such as work, other sports and, for a few, their high school teams.
“I thought we’d be good, but not in my wildest dreams did I think we’d go undefeated,” he said.
Goodson and his assistant coaches, John Gavin, Mike Bright, and Tom Leahy, didn't have to wait long to see how well their team would do. April opened with showers of runs, and the Mustangs enjoyed romps of 15-2 and 25-5 in their first two games.
The only one they didn’t win came in late May, when they tied the Manchester Blue Sox 5-5 in a game shortened to six innings because of darkness.
Some of that was probably his kids’ fault though.
“The first time we played them, we won by a lopsided score,” Goodson said. “The boys thought that all they had to do was show up.”
He noted that the games got tougher as the season progressed.
“We are an aggressive team and ran the bases well. But later in the season the other teams caught up to us, and we had to be smarter,” he said.
However, the Mustangs would ultimately win most of their regular season games by lopsided scores. Brayden Bowie and Ethan Leary paced the pitching staff with five and four wins, respectively. The team's six pitchers combined for 114 strikeouts in 86 innings this season.
Bowie also paced the Mustangs with 24 hits and 17 stolen bases.
Cole Haynes had the team's two home runs, sending two shots over the fence at Manchester's Christmas Tree Park.
Anthony Resto played in only eight games, but he led the Mustangs with a .500 batting average (9-for-18) and a .722 slugging percentage. He also managed a third-best 10 RBIs. Tate Gavin was second in batting at .476.
Ryan Gretz and Spencer Goodson led the Mustangs in RBIs with 13 apiece.
Despite some impressive statistics, the postseason provided challenging moments for the Mustangs.
However, game one against the Finksburg Yankees at Deer Park on June 16, was decided early. The Mustangs poured across eight third-inning runs to break it open. Goodson and Kendrick Frock each had two-run singles in the big frame.
Justin Ballard was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored in the game.
Gretz was the winning pitcher in that 11-3 rout, going the last five innings and yielding only two runs. He was also 2-for-3.
The second game, two days later at Carroll Community College, was closer. In fact, the Hampstead Panthers led 3-1 when the Mustangs came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Goodson’s single then tied it 3-3. Westminster broke the game open with four runs in the following inning. Resto’s three-run double was the big blow there, and the Mustangs went on to win 7-4.
Bowie had a complete-game win.
Hampstead then worked through the tournament losers’ bracket to face the Mustangs again at Carroll Community on June 25.
Both teams scored twice in the opening inning.
The Mustangs came to bat in the fourth trailing 4-2, but they rallied for three runs to go ahead for good. Ethan Bright’s two-run single tied the game, Leahy’s sacrifice fly scored a fifth run, and that was all she wrote.
Bowie, shaky in the early innings, would be unbeatable in the final three frames during which he held the Panthers scoreless. Bowie wound up with nine strikeouts in the win. He also went 2-for-3, as did Goodson.
David Mandl was solid defensively, as he was in the other two tournament games.
The Mustangs again had trouble making contact, and again, it didn’t matter.
However it would take two crucial defensive plays to preserve this final win. Second baseman Andy Brown got the last outs of the game on two consecutive grabs of softly-hit bloopers behind first base.
“The balls were hit into no-man’s land. It was amazing,” Goodson said. “The only chance to make a play was [Brown], and he made them both.”
Goodson clearly likes his team. And he looks forward to bringing it back to the Stallions League for another crack next year.
Looking back at this season, he again emphasized that his players' enjoyment for the game was key to their winning so many of them.
“The boys were so coachable, but they didn’t need much coaching,” Goodson said. “They have a high baseball IQ. They wanted to have fun. And when they had fun, they won ballgames. I don’t know how else to describe it.”