The Titans Baseball Club's 12-under "tournament-only" baseball team has struggled to gain respectability this year. The team, part of the Westminster-based Titans Baseball Club, has battled some of the best competition in the region as part of coach Mark Golberg's efforts to prepare the kids for high school play.
However, it has come out on the losing end more often than not.
But in the words of Terence Mann, from the movie "Field of Dreams," "There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers click and the universe opens up to show you what's possible."
That's what happened to the Titans this past Mother's Day. On that day things, cosmic or otherwise, suddenly clicked gloriously into place for a few hours. And for those few hours, the players could clearly see themselves as 12-under champions of the 2016 PG Select Mother's Day Tournament.
The Titans had already won two games and scored the go-ahead run in extra innings in the final. Unfortunately for them, the door slammed shut when the Blue Sox scored two runs in the bottom half of the inning to win the game 11-10 and take that title.
The Titans have been around for two years, and Golberg has been at the helm for both. He held try-outs in order to draw the best players, and it attracted them from all over Carroll County. There is even one from Owings Mills.
Golberg and assistant coaches Glen Naill and Tyler Elliott wanted to prepare their boys for high school by matching them against the best possible competition.
They didn't want them in rec leagues or even travel leagues. So, when they formed their team last year, they decided to make it a "tournament-only" team.
Golberg also wanted to develop advanced baseball skills in his youngsters.
Since the idea was to give them the best competition available, the coaches weren't hung up on racking up a spectacular won-lost record. They were hoping the boys would be competitive and had two main goals.
"We hoped to play in two championship games and play a little over .500 ball [overall]," he said.
Last year's team accomplished both goals, finishing second in two tournaments and finishing slightly above the break-even point for the year.
This year, it failed to come close in its first three tournaments. The team was well under .500 as rode down to Upper Marlboro for the Mother's Day Tournament.
The Saturday beginnings were, to put it mildly, inauspicious. Golberg's guys lost both 12-under pool games that day. The first game was against the PG Select Blue Sox. The game was tied 3-3 after two innings and 4-4 after four.
However, things really looked good for the locals when they pulled ahead by 6-4 in the top of the sixth and final inning. But the Sox rallied by three runs in the home half to win 7-6.
Adrian Auber and Jonathan Cole were each 2-for-2 for the Titans. Nick Malone added a double. Game 2 wasn't a heartbreaking loss. It was a total blowout.
The Southern Maryland Knights clobbered the Titans 11-1.
The kids stood 0-2 in pool play. Golberg though, told them that things could change.
"I told them that pool play is where you get seeded," he said. "It doesn't define the type of team you are. I said they had to clear their minds, reset, and go back to work."
His kids would take that message to heart. But as they slept that night, they may have missed that "click" in the heavens that signaled a dramatic change in their fortunes.
The next day was Mother's Day. It also turned out to be the Titans' Day. The fifth-seeded Titans opened against the fourth-seeded PG Grey Sox. The local kids quickly left no doubt as to which was the better team as they pounded them 10-1.
Cole started and pitched four strong innings, allowing the one run. Gavin DeWees closed out with two scoreless frames. Brett Bowman and Domenic Arena paced the attack, each going 3-for-3.
Next, they faced the top-seeded Knights who had blasted them the day before.
They pulled ahead 3-0 behind Jeremy Golberg who pitched three scoreless innings, fanning four.
But the Southern Maryland team tied it with three runs of its own and then went ahead,, 4-3. The Titans retaliated by scoring three runs in the fifth to lead,, 6-4. Reliever Ben Musser then held off the Knights late, and the Titans were 6-5 victors.
Travis Elliott was 2-for-3 for the winners.
That left the Blue Sox. Here, the Titans were hoping to avenge the one-run loss to that Prince George's County opponent in Game 1.
The first three innings were a slug fest with the two teams combining for 16 runs. After those three, the Blue Sox led 9-7. The Titans than shut the Sox down, eventually tying it 9-9 with two runs in the top of the fifth.
The deadlocked game went into extra innings. Prince George's hadn't scored in four innings when the Titans came to bat in the top of the eighth frame. But they'd only scored in one frame themselves.
Golberg says that they left themselves open to defeat by not hitting better during that crucial part of the game.
"We had a lot of opportunities with men on base, but we just couldn't get the big hit," he said.
They did score a run in the top of the eighth inning to go ahead, 10-9. But the Sox came back with two in the home half to win 11-10.
Jacob Naill and Auber were both 2-for-3 and Arena, 3-for-4. Ben Rike had a big two-run single to give his Titans team an early 6-4 lead.
Their team had finished second, and things were looking up.
Since then though, things have unfortunately slipped backward.
"We aren't playing as well as we did earlier in the year. The boys' confidence in their hitting is lower. Pitchers are starting to change speeds and locate their pitches better, and the players aren't used to it," he explained.
But the coaches have worked hard on the hitting. And Golberg believes his kids have bought in to what their coaches are saying.
The coaches also believe that the talent is there to do better. The kids demonstrated in Upper Marlboro that they already have the mental stuff.
"That eight-inning game showed that they have drive and determination and that there was no quit in any of the players. Each player showed how mentally tough he was by turning things around in one day," Golberg said.
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