The day dawned gray, but members of the Maryland Old Liners softballteam had gold on their minds when they arrived at Hopkins Road Park here yesterday morning.

A mix of good play and good fortune had landed the team in the title game of the 65-and-older age division at the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic III.

But the jovial Old Liners, a team based in Clarksville and featuring several Howard residents, ran into a twister on Diamond No. 1.

More specifically, the Howard team met the hometown Syracuse Cyclones, who scored in six of the game's seven innings and rode a barrage of RBI singles to a 14-5 gold-medal game win.

"We're still happy that we ended up like we did," Old Liners Manager Nick Hozik, a Clarksville resident, said of the 5-1 record the team compiled in four days.

More than 5,000 athletes from across the nation, all age 55 or older, have come to upstate New York for the biannual senior classic, which features competition in 18 events.

In the softball title game, the Cyclones, cheered on by dozens of hometown fans and a local television crew, got the job done with their bats.

The team broke open the game with five runs in the sixth, including three two-out runs,to take a 12-1 lead.

But the hometown team picked up help from the Old Liners in the form of sloppy fielding early in the game. Several dropped flies and booted grounders allowed the Cyclones to build a 7-1 lead.

"We had some rubber gloves out there today," said Old Liner shortstop Don Cook of Forest Glen, Montgomery County.

Down 12-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the Old Liners rallied with three runs when a Cyclones infielder kicked a bases-loaded grounder by Steve Illar of Beltsville, Prince George's County.

A grounder by Ellicott City's Maurice "Mo" Mercier also was muffed and brought home another run.

But that was all the Old Liners could muster.

Though disappointed by the loss, the Maryland team was cheered by the postgame ceremony, when the players were decorated with silver medals.

"It feels great to be going home with this one here," said Columbia's HowardUpperco, grasping his medal. "We didn't expect it in the least, so it feels great. We were up against a tough team."

The Old Liners reached the championship when they rallied from seven runs down to posta 14-11 win Monday over a team from Dayton, Ohio.

The Maryland team got an unexpected boost when tournament officials reworked the format for the championship bracket, which resulted in the Old Liners' drawing a bye.

Other senior athletes from Howard also have been in action here this week.

On Saturday, Ellicott City resident Doris Russell captured the gold medal in the 70-74 age bracket of the women's 50-meter butterfly swimming event. Russell's time of 53:04 seconds barely nipped silver-medalist Nancy Phillips of Madison, Conn., who clocked in at 53:71.

Russell also placed fourth among the 27 swimmers in the 100-meter freestyle, with a time of 1 minute, 44:23 seconds. Susanna Marvel of Rochester, N.Y., won the event in 1:37:58.

Also in the pool, Columbia's Stefania Stith placed 23rd among 30 women in the 50-meter backstroke, with a time of 1:24:86. Phillips won the event with a time of 50:61.

Over the weekend, two Ellicott City residents participated in all four cycling events at Onondaga Lake Parkway.

On Sunday, Don Heinicke Sr. and Phillip Dorsch finished sixth and eighth, respectively, among the 20 riders in the 20-kilometer race.

Heinicke turned in a time of 41:10, while Dorsch finished in 43:57.

In the one-mile sprint Sunday, Dorsch placed seventh in 2:50 and Heinicke finished 8th in 2:56.

In Saturday's 10-kilometer race, Heinicke finished sixth with a time of 20:32, while Dorsch finished10th in 21:38.

Earlier Saturday, Heinicke and Dorsch finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the five-kilometer race.

Heinicketurned in a time of 9:56, followed by Dorsch at 10:03.

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