"As far as I'm concerned, the finals are starting Thursday," said Taneytown Cardinal manager Steve Bosley.

His team will face the Cashtown (Pa.) Pirates tomorrow in the opening game of the Western Division best-of-three finals at Taneytown Memorial Park.

And if you had a chance to look at the final regular season standings (Taneytown finished first in the West with a 27-5 record, one game in front of Cashtown's 26-6 mark), you would have a hard time arguing his logic.

The only other team over the .500 mark in the regular season was the Eastern Division-leading Littlestown (Pa.) Dodgers,which finished with a mediocre 17-15 mark.

"I'm going to try to push for a one-division league next year," Bosley said. "Here we have the two best teams by far playing in the semifinals. That's not what the playoffs are all about. The two best teams should play one another in the finals."

The Cardinals were extended to three games in the opening round against Mummasburg, Pa., but Bosley is expecting a totally different ballclub tomorrow when his team takes the field against Cashtown.

"I'm just glad that series (against Mummasburg) is behind us," he said. "We just don't get up for them. You'll see a different brand of baseball on Thursday."

While the Cards got a slight scare from Mummasburg, Cashtown rolled by Thurmont of Frederick County with two straight wins.

"No matter who you play, it takes the same things -- pitching, defense and timely hitting, in that order -- to come out on top," Cashtown player/manager Joe Pecher said.

"We finished one game apart in a 32-game regular season, so it's safe to say it will be a close matchup and the series may come down to mistakes -- who makes them and who doesn't."

During the regular season, the two teams split in four meetings -- each taking one game at home and one away.

The Cardinals will send ace Bryan Harman (8-0 on the year with a 1.34 earned run average) to the mound Thursday while Pecher has yet to decide who he will start in the series opener.

Bosley is more concerned about his offense than his pitching.

"We're not hitting the ball real well right now, so if we can have some low-scoring games we should be OK," he said.

"Our pitchers are in good shape. Their (Cashtown) strength is their power hitting, and they can tie a game up or go ahead with one swing.

"It's just a matter of keeping them in the ballpark. We're not scared of their pitching and our defense is stronger."

The Pirates rely on a three-man pitching rotation led by Bubby Shankle (9-1, 2.95 ERA) and Rod Sell (8-2, 2.32ERA).

Pecher leads Cashtown offensively with 10 homers and 33 RBI, followed by Mike Winpigler (.389 batting average with 28 RBI) and Chris Skowronski (eight homers, 25 RBI).

The Westminster Elks' season, meanwhile, came to an end after a 6-5 loss against the New Oxford(Pa.) Twins Sunday in an Eastern Division, first-round contest.

The Elks opened the series with a 3-0 win over the second-place Twins before coming home Saturday and losing, 17-5, to tie the series at one game apiece.

Trailing, 6-0, in the seventh, the Elks rallied forfive runs on five consecutive base hits (highlighted by a two-run homer by John May) to pull to within one.

Twin pitcher Keith Benenour settled down after that, retiring the side to close the door.

New Oxford will take on Littlestown in the Eastern Division finals. Thewinner will play the Cashtown-Taneytown winner in a best-of-five series for the South Penn League crown.

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