A couple of Carroll County Men's Softball League teams were in trouble last winter. Nu Look Home Design and Illuminati were both short of players and each may have had trouble fielding a team.
So, the two decided to combine forces.
The new team would turn out to be rather good — very good, actually.
Playing as Nu Look Home Design, it had a perfect year in the Men's League's Wednesday Night Division. It went 14-0 in the division's regular season and swept three more games to win its postseason tournament.
Combining two teams into one can create special problems. Players might have to move to different positions. Somebody who batted cleanup might now have to bat sixth because two guys on the other team are stronger hitters
But the two co-managers, Nu Home's Andy Bloom and Illuminati's Anthony DeVita, stressed a team concept.
"Everybody bought into and understood his role," Bloom said. "The managers) preached that we were a family, and that camaraderie was a big reason for our success."
The tournament schedule started early and the new look, Nu Look started winning early. In March, it won a USSSA Snowball tournament and in April, a USSSA- sponsored NIT tournament.
Bloom said that the NIT was a big win for his new team which was playing short-handed.
"We lost the first game but then won five in a row," he said. "We were missing some guys, but others stepped up to fill roles. It showed that we had quality depth."
The weekend of July 22, his team swept four more games to win a tournament in Glen Burnie, and it won an NSA tournament the following weekend. The weekend after that, it was second in a USSSA state tournament played at Bachman Park in Glen Burnie.
Altogether, it would win four tournaments in addition to the Men's League's championship affair.
However, it also went to Chattanooga, Tn., for an Independent Softball Association (ISA) tournament in which it didn't do so well. The locals lost both games and were taught a hard lesson about how good some softball teams can be.
"It was awful; we were outplayed. We couldn't stop their hitting no matter what defense we played.It was a rough experience for us, but they showed us where we'll want to be, ourselves," Bloom said.
He explained that his team's big failing against top tournament competition was inconsistent hitting. He added that this must improve in the future for his team to compete with the big boys.
But back in Carroll County, those bats worked just fine.
The Men's League tournament ran from July 24 to Aug. 14. It took two weeks to play because rain forced several postponements. However despite the delays, each time Nu Look Home Design stepped on the field at the Carroll County Sports Complex, it was ready.
It opened by beating Lawn-Smart and Outdoor Services 14-4. Pinch-hitter Dennis Linker singled in the 14th run to end the game via the 10-run rule. Co-manager DeVita went 3-for-3 and Jim Green went 2-for-2.
The next game was about as wild as it is possible to get. Nu Look had a 16-9 lead with ACC Masonry batting in the sixth and last inning due to time constraints.
But ACC erupted for 10 runs in the frame to go ahead 19-16 with Nu Look having one more at-bat.
One more was all it needed.
Bruce Pugh, who would be seriously injured in a tournament the following weekend following a collision with a teammate, led off the sixth with a double. Dale Bloom later singled to tie the score 19-19, and Ryan Robinson singled in the game-winner. He also had an earlier home run.
Justin Geho had two home runs for the winners, and Andy Bloom had one. Scott Cremens was 4-for-4 with a homer.
And, Nu Look was now the only unbeaten team in the tourney. However, ACC would came out of the losers' bracket to try again on Aug. 14.
Rain interfered, and the two teams had to endure two rain delays to finish the game. However, Nu Look won game and championship 21-11.
ACC got off to a fast start though, leading 7-1 after its at-bat in the second inning. But Nu Look exploded for ten runs in the home second to pull ahead 11-7. ACC had narrowed the lead to 13-11 when Nu Look came to bat in the fifth. But it scored eight runs in the frame to end the contest on the 10-run rule, 21-11.
Marshall Thompson hit two homers for the winners. His second was a walk-off that put Nu Look ahead by 10 and ended the game.
Paul Macciocca was 4-for-4 for the winners. Pat Smith was 3-for-3 with a homer. Nat Witte went 3-for-3 and Andrew Cupp, 2-for-3. And Nu Look Home Design was champion of a strong CCMSL division in its first year of existence.
The team named Pugh, who was able to play in only the first two tournament games, its MVP. Bloom explained that the players felt he had inspired them and helped them win the championship game.
"The players were excited to win the league. That was one of our goals this year. We expect to win each time we step on the field," Bloom said.
Its second place finish in the state USSSA state tournament landed the team a spot in USSSA's World Class C/D tournament in Florida, Sept. 19-22.
"We will be competitive. If we don't finish in the top ten teams down there, I will be disappointed," Bloom said.
He expects the players to come back next year, and he is shooting for bigger things. He will play a few more out-of-state tournaments in order to see some different competition. The two teams that combined to form Nu Look had moved from Class E to Class D softball over the two years before they combined. This year's Nu Look moved up to C and plans to stay there next year. There are few Maryland teams higher than that.