A high school baseball team can't play much better than the Hammond Bears did Monday afternoon at Hammond.

The Bears meshed pitching, hitting, defense and speed into an awesome 10-0 victory over South River of Anne Arundel County.

Hammond starting pitcher Mike Lerner threw a two-hitter, fanned four, walked none and completed the seven-inning contest by throwing just 69 pitches -- 49 of those for strikes.

He allowed just three balls to be hit to the outfield.

Hammond hitters clubbed three homeruns among eight base hits and scored at least one run in every inning.

The homers included: a prodigious two-run blast to left field by Jeff Lavis in the first inning, a line-drive solo shot by Tom Costell that hit the top of the center-field fence and bounced over in the second inning and a solo blast to left field by Curtis Barnard in the fourth.

"Lavis' shot would have been a home run anywhere, including Memorial Stadium," Hammond coach Bob Maxey said.

"Everybody hit today; Mike (Lerner) had his good stuff, and our defense made all the routine plays. The kids feel real good about themselves right now."

Defensively, the Bears didn't make an error for the second straight game.

Hammond (1-1), the preseason choice to win the county title this year, had lost its opening game to Fallston last week, 7-6,after blowing a 6-2 lead.

So Monday's game was important for building confidence.

The Bears showed their speed by stealing four bases in five attempts. Mark Alverez, Jeff Cyran, Lavis and Costell eachstole one base.

Lerner, who sometimes has control problems, had full command of his pitches from the first inning, mixing a fastball,curve and change. Seven of his first eight pitches were strikes.

Through four innings he had a perfect game until South River's clean-up batter, Brian Hutson, led off the fifth inning by doubling off thecenter-field fence.

Lerner threw only 48 pitches, including just 15 balls, through the first five innings.

The two-hitter was the first of his career. He beat Glenelg, 5-1, on a three-hitter last yearwhen he went 3-3 with four complete games. His only previous shutoutwas against Spalding last year.

"The defense was great today," Lerner said. "I kept the ball down and the umpire had a good strike zone. The early runs helped a lot."

Lerner also had a secret weapon. Between innings he filled his cheek not with the traditional hunk of chewing tobacco, but with a hunk of raw potato that he claimed gave him some extra energy during the game.

"I got the idea from Bobby Caswell (former Atholton player). He did it last season and had a great year," Lerner said. "So I guess I'll keep on doing it."

South River coach Ken Dunn thinks his team should be decent this year after returning six starters from a squad with a 5-15 record last year.

"We should be able to hang with most teams, but we just didn't come ready to play today, and their pitcher got ahead and just controlled everything," Dunn said.

"They out-hustled us and used more baseballsense."

Dunn also claimed his team failed to keep its concentration, because eight of Hammond's 10 runs were scored after two were out.

"But that's not to take anything away from Hammond," Dunn said. "Bob Maxey does a fine job, and he's had this group for a few years, so it is playing his kind of ball now."

South River's starter, Al Lee, fanned the first two batters he faced. But Jeff Cyran walked, and Lavis homered for a 2-0 Hammond lead.

After giving up Costell's lead-off homer in the second inning, Lee fanned the next three batters.

Costell, 5-feet-5 and 130 pounds, said it was his first homer ever: "I never even hit one in Little League."

He was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.

Costell also contributed a two-run single, the final hit in a three-run third inning.

The rally began whenAlverez led off with a single. Joe Nestor reached on a two-out errorand Mark Salerno hit an RBI-single.

Costell was thrown out tryingto steal second base to end the inning, but by then Lee had thrown 63 pitches and was finished for the day. His only effective pitch was his fastball.

South River's second pitcher was R. J. Dopson. He fanned the first batter he faced, but surrendered a homer to designatedhitter Barnard, a 6-3, 200-pound ice hockey player.

Hammond scored twice in the fifth inning on a lead-off single by Lavis, and two-out, back-to-back Seahawk errors.

Jeff Cyran hit a two-out single inthe sixth and scored on two throwing errors. The Seahawks (0-1) madesix errors for the game.

Hutson got South River's second hit withtwo out in the seventh. It was a bloop single to left.

"I was real pleased with our infield defense," Maxey said.

"The only negative was that we struck out too many times (eight)."

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