The American Legion Laurel Post 60 baseball team went from cliques to clicking this summer.
The team draws from four Howard County high schools: Reservoir, Atholton, River Hill and Mt. Hebron, and that can make for some uneasiness when practice begins.
"It takes time to buy in," says Fulton resident Kevin Hiden, the team's manager. "They all come from different teams. It takes a couple of weeks, or the first tournament weekend, and they start to jell and play together."
"They start to come together with shared values," said Ellicott City resident Doug "Doc" Drewyer, the team's head coach for a decade. "We keep what I call a value-based approach."
That was certainly the case this season as Laurel won the title for the first time in its league in Montgomery County. Laurel beat Damascus on its home field at Sherwood High School in the championship game that earned Post 60 an automatic bid to the state tournament in Cumberland.
Nick Raulin pitched 6 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, and gave up just two earned runs, to get the win against Damascus. Falan Garner and Richie Lancashire each had two hits in the title game, Paul Quattrone drove in two runs and Jake Snyder scored two runs.
American Legion Laurel Post 60 then began play in the state tournament in Cumberland July 30. The team advanced to the semifinals before losing, 8-7, to Funkstown on Aug. 2. Laurel had the bases loaded in the ninth but could not get the tying run across. Funkstown then lost to Cecil, 7-5, in the state title game.
"We all went to different high schools," Reservoir grad Quattrone said. "At the beginning of the year playing together was new. We struggled at the beginning. Toward the second half we started to figure it out. Everything was clicking. We were finding ways to win."
It was just the second trip to the state tournament for Laurel under the leadership of Hiden and Drewyer. The team also advanced to the state event in 2010 as the runner-up in the Montgomery League since Montgomery was the host that year and got two teams in the event.
"It was an amazing experience," Quattrone said of the facilities in Cumberland.
This year's team was 25-13 overall after going 3-2 at the state tourney. Top hitters for Laurel were Quattrone (.400), Lancashire (.389), Josh Pickens (.388) and Garner (.382). The pitching staff was led by Garner (3-1, 2.56 ERA), Raulin (6-0, 2.81) and Jacob Meyer (3-5, 3.41).
This year's Laurel team benefitted from several players with one year of Division III college experience including catcher Paul Burmester, a graduate of Atholton who played as a freshman for Catholic University; pitcher Meyer (Mt. Hebron), who played at Waynesburg (PA) University; Lancashire (River Hill), an outfielder this past spring for DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., near Allentown; and Joe Bentz (Atholton), who played at Stevenson last year as a freshman infielder and hit .222 in 18 at bats.
"They came back (from college) and realized this is a great, great way of playing baseball with no silliness," Drewyer said.
Burmester was a d3baseball.com all-region player this year at Catholic after he hit .322 with four homers and 24 RBIs in 115 at bats. Meyer was 0-1 with an ERA of 6.58 in 12 games out of the bullpen for Waynesburg. Lancashire hit .200 in 10 at bats for DeSales last spring.
Several members of the Laurel team hope to play in college this coming year.
Phil Frazier (Atholton) plans to play at Heidelberg of Tiffin, Ohio, which advanced to the Midwest Regional in Division III last spring and was 31-13 overall. Doug Miller of Glenelg Country School was a junior infielder for Heidelberg last year and hit .133 in 30 at bats. Matt Gross (Atholton) and Garner (River Hill) may play club ball at the University of Maryland in College Park and Quattrone (Reservoir) plans to join the new baseball program at Division III Hood College in Frederick.
Another boon for the Laurel Legion team was the presence of players from Reservoir High, which won the Class 3A state baseball title this past spring under head coach Adam Leader over North Harford in the title game. Quattrone had a walk and two hits in the state title game against North Harford.
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"Their high school coach (Leader) is a real gem in the community," Drewyer said. "He has taught them how to be a team." The same could be said this summer of the American Legion Laurel Post 60 squad.