Lewis turns season into surprise party


In Sunday's sports section, a photograph of Mount Hebron pitcher Alan Vandenberge was substituted inadvertently for one of Glenelg pitcher Jeff Lewis.

The Howard County Sun regrets the errors.

Glenelg pitcher Jeff Lewis exceeded all expectations in his first varsity season.

Billed as Glenelg's No. 2 starter behind senior Kevin Roland, the junior surprised his coach and himself by compiling a 7-1 record and 1.73 ERA.

Glenelg had an 11-3 league mark, good for a co-championship with Atholton. It was Glenelg's first county baseball title since 1987, and came despite a lowly team batting average of .260.

"He's been a great surprise and without him we couldn't have accomplished what we did," Glenelg coach Terry Coleman said. "I thought he'd be our No. 2 pitcher, that people would steal a lot of bases on him, and that he wouldn't throw hard enough for the varsity level."

Instead, the 16-year-old right-hander improved his pickoff move to first by eliminating a high leg kick and by learning a sidestep throw to first base. And his velocity improved from the low 70s to the upper 70s, allowing him to throw the ball past some batters.

Lewis, a Sykesville resident, is 6-foot-2 and still growing.

"His height definitely helps his velocity," Coleman said.

Another surprise for Coleman was Lewis' excellent fielding. He handled 18 chances without an error and was especially effective against the bunt.

Perhaps Lewis' best effort was a two-hitter against Howard in the final regular-season game, a 5-0 victory that earned Glenelg a tie for the title.

Lewis also threw a pair of five-hitters in 2-1 victories over Centennial and Hammond.

In fact, four of Lewis' wins were by 2-1 scores: He beat Mount Hebron and earned a win over Atholton with a two-inning relief stint. His other wins were in relief against Mount Hebron, 8-6, and in a start against Wilde Lake, 14-5.

His lone loss was to Atholton, the only game in which he was hit hard this year. He allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Although his league-leading seven wins are a surprise from a No. 2 pitcher, Lewis is not a total surprise. He went 9-3 last year for the junior varsity. As a freshman, he won six games.

"I thought I'd win some games but I didn't expect to do this well," pTC Lewis said. "I just felt more comfortable as the year went on. I still feel I'm our No. 2 pitcher, though. Kevin [Roland] was more dominant. He just had some tough luck."

Roland, considered Glenelg's No. 1 starter, was 5-3 as the team headed into regional playoffs.

Lewis thinks his curveball has been his most effective pitch, but a split-fingered fastball also has helped a lot.

Lewis experienced some control problems -- he walked 25 batters in 51 innings. But he usually pitched his way out of those dilemmas.

"Jeff got behind to a lot of batters, but he's a battler and he doesn't mind throwing from the stretch," Coleman said.

Lewis said he actually throws better with men on base.

"My control is better and I'm more comfortable from the stretch," he said.

Lewis suffered arm problems last summer while pitching for the

Dayton Raiders under-16 team. A tendon separated from the bone and he had to undergo therapy, Lewis said. He pitched in only five games and then missed the rest of the summer season. But his arm has felt fine this season, he said.

"I experimented with a slider and I think that's how I hurt my arm," he said.

Lewis played seven years in the Howard County Youth Program. He plans to pitch for Liberty Road's under-18 team in the Baltimore Metro League this summer.

When he wasn't pitching this season, Lewis was Glenelg's designated hitter (.270 average).

Although Glenelg's low team batting average created hardships for Gladiator pitchers, the defense picked up after a shaky start and helped compensate for the weak bats, Lewis said.

If he continues to improve, Lewis may be the county's premier pitcher by next spring.

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