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"Cancel Christmas. We haven't had a game pitched against us like that all year," Edgewood coach Steve Williams said after his team was shut out on two hits in the state semifinal by Hammond's Joe Nestor. Edgewood had made the state final the two previous seasons.

Nestor, 17, The Howard County Sun's Player of the Year, canceled a lot of Christmases this year, winning nine games and losing three while pitching most of Hammond's important games.

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior left-hander not once but three timesbeat a hard-hitting Mount Hebron squad that finished tied for third place. He beat runner-up Centennial twice, including once in the next-to-last league game, when the Eagles trailed Hammond by just one game.

With the pressure on and bothered by a sore hip, Nestor threw ano-hitter at Centennial to clinch Hammond's first county championship.

He also beat third-place Oakland Mills, regional semifinalist Liberty of Carroll County, Wilde Lake and Edgewood.

He lost twice to undefeated Northeast, a team that averaged 14 runs per game and mayhave been the best-hitting team in Baltimore-area history. His otherloss was in a relief effort against Atholton.

In 80 innings he fanned 101 batters, walked just 24 and compiled a 1.83 earned run average despite being roughed up twice by Northeast.

"Joe was tough from the start of the season until the end and got all the tough assignments," Coach Bob Maxey said.

The left-hander threw a one-hitter inaddition to the no-hitter.

And Nestor didn't hurt his cause at the plate. He batted .354 with two homers and 12 RBI. Both homers were against Northeast.

Nestor was a control pitcher whose slider and curve made his fastball in the upper-70-mph range effective.

Only 4-4 last season, Nestor credits his improvement to Columbia Reds pitching coach Jim Mowder. Nestor played for the Reds last summer.

"Coach Mowder changed my windup and delivery, and that improved the speedon my fastball and tightened up my curve," he said.

He also credited Hammond Coach Bob Maxey for his ability to motivate and build confidence.

"We were pretty confident we could win the county title this year, and we thought we had a shot at a state title," Nestor said. "If we concentrated we thought we could win."

Nestor also cited the team's togetherness as a factor in winning. Every Thursday night the team went out for dinner together.

The team has been a long time in the making.

"Most of us have been playing together in AYRA (Atholton Youth Recreation Association) since we were 8 years old," Nestor said.

The resident of Kings Contrivance village in Columbia is uncertain about his college plans but will pitch for the Columbia Reds again this summer.

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