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Jeff Scott says his Manchester 15-under Blue Sox baseball team has been a coach's dream this year.

In fact, he believes that “on paper, I think this team is the best 15-under team in the state.”

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Finishing first in six of the nine tournaments his team entered gives him ample reason to say that. And even in two tournaments they didn’t win, the players at least made it out of pool play. And during that pool play segment, they handily whipped the eventual tournament winner.

The ninth tournament was a showcase affair, and there is no winner in those events. The idea is to give college recruiters and recruiters an opportunity to watch the kids themselves.

Scott, who has coached youth baseball for 27 years, takes his coaching seriously. First of all, he beats the bushes to find the best talent.While he is from the Westminster area, and some of the players are from Carroll County, many of the 12 are not. They come from Baltimore County and Pennsylvania.

However, he said he has no trouble recruiting when he goes looking.

“We’ve been a winning club for several years now, and kids want to play for us,” Scott said.

He has a 90-foot baseball diamond on his property east of Westminster off of Rte 482. That is where he and his assistant coaches Bob Quigley and Scott’s eldest son Zachary run the practices. And they are demanding. However, the results are there — six championships in nine tries.

The Blue Sox play only in tournaments, not leagues. Scott believes that tournaments offer the better competition. But he wasn’t sure how successful his team would be on the tournament circuit this year.

A 14-under team last season, they had to move up this season. The problem was that there aren’t many 15-under tournaments. Scott said that most are for ages 15-16, and his players would often be competing against opponents a year older.

However, that hasn’t been a problem.

First of all, Scott made sure he had the pitching depth to play in tournaments that always stretched into a second day because of his team’s continual success in the first. The Sox played 46 games in their 10 tournaments, going 36-8-2. They averaged four-to-five games in each tournament. They never got knocked out early.

All 12 of Scott’s players could pitch, however he generally chose from a rotation of six hurlers. He never used his best strongest ones during the pool play stage of the tournaments. Those pitchers were always saved for Sunday’s important semifinal and final games.

In most of those games, they were facing a team of 16-year-olds when they played in ages 15-16 tournaments. But that rarely mattered; his pitchers did the job as did his batters. The Sox scored 318 runs and gave up only 125.

When your team wins that many games and takes six tournament titles, it might be hard to pick out just one game as the favorite.

However, Scott has one. However, it wasn’t an overwhelming blow-out or a nice, tidy shut-out. It was a game in which his team fell way behind and almost lost.

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This was the championship game of the Patrick Shifflett Memorial Tournament which was held May 31-June 1 in Clarksburg.

Manchester won its three games and was in the championship final. Matched against the Blue Sox was Old Line Baseball, a Baltimore County outfit.

“We were losing 6-0 after the first inning and 7-0 in the third," Scott said. "Then we scored two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth to make it 7-4. Then a thunderstorm hit, and we had a 35-minute rain delay.”

When the teams resumed, Old Line changed pitchers, and the Blue Sox immediately went after the reliever.

They scored twice in the top of the sixth inning to narrow the gap to 7-6. But Old Line appeared to clinch the game when it scored three runs in the home sixth to make it 10-6.

″Then in the seventh, we scored five runs to win 11-10. That is probably the most exciting game I’ve ever been involved with," Scott said.

But Scott added he sometimes wonders what would have happened had it not rained and Old Line’s starting pitcher had stayed in the game.

“Mother Nature may have helped us,” he acknowledged.

Winning tournaments wasn’t Manchester’s only goal this season.

“If we’d won only one tournament (instead of the six), I would have been satisfied. It’s not just winning. It’s the way you do it,” Scott said.

An important goal was to teach the boys to play the game correctly and also to exhibit sportsmanship and self control at all times. The idea is to make them all-around players. Scott feels he and his assistants did that. While the boys came from all over, they still played as a tight-knit team.

“We had great chemistry. They were all close and they picked each other up. They played team baseball,” he said.

This will become more and more important next season because he intends to enter the team in more showcase tournaments. There, college coaches and even pro scouts will take a hard look at how the players behave as members of a team.

A player who gets three hits but then throws his bat against the dugout wall after striking out in his fourth at bat could be written off.

However, Scott thinks he and his assistants have trained the players to do more than simply win ballgames on the field. They’ve also trained them to be team players at coaches at the next level would want to sign up.

And for this reason, he believes some of his Blue Sox players will be bringing home more than just first place trophies over the next couple of years.

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