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Undermanned Reds find it hard to hit on all cylinders


Think of the grinding, sputtering noise of an eight-cylinder engine minus three spark plugs.

The Reds baseball engine responded similarly Thursday night in a game without their starting left fielder, third baseman and shortstop. The team managed just two hits in a 5-1 loss to the Arundel Stars in a Baltimore Major Unlimited League game at Wilde Lake High School.

The Stars' 27-year-old pitcher, Chris Garber -- a former James Madison University player who once played in the NCAA College World Series -- walked two and fanned nine in a seven-inning complete-game effort.

Bill Strehlein, the Reds' cleanup hitter, nicked Garber for a first-inning RBI single, driving in Damon Bond who had walked and stolen second base. And Matt Donovan rapped a lead-off sixth-inning single, but then watched Garber fan the next three batters.

The Reds, playing their inaugural season, feature many county residents who are college-age athletes with big high school reputations. And despite Thursday night's loss, the Reds are off and humming to a good start.

They are 7-4 overall, and 2-0 in the 20-and-under Friday Night League, the champion of which earns a berth in the All-America )) Amateur Baseball Association's national tourney in Johnstown, Pa., in August. The six-team Friday Night League plays a 10-game schedule, so each game is meaningful.

In the eight-team Baltimore Major Unlimited League, the Reds play a 42-game schedule on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

"The Friday League is the one we really want to win," Reds coach Brian Anderson said. "Friday games are what we gear up for."

The Stars, 7-3 overall, are one of their toughest competitors this season.

Against the Reds, Arundel shoved across single runs in the first and second innings, two in the sixth and one more in the seventh. Reds starter Mark Palmerino surrendered seven hits, walked two and fanned two.

He's one of eight talented Reds pitchers who provide the team tremendous depth at that position.

"In an Unlimited League game like this, we aren't as upset about losing, because here we only have to finish in the top four to make the playoffs," Anderson said after Thursday's game. "In the Friday League only the top team goes to the tournament."

Anderson, 25, who played his college ball at Davis & Elkins, said he just wanted to get playing time for some guys who don't normally start.

"It's been a team effort so far, and different players have contributed key hits," he said.

The Reds are a combination of two teams that played in the Baltimore Metro League last season, the Columbia Reds and the Bedouins.

The Reds had problems lining up a home field, so it has used five locations including Wilde Lake High, Atholton High, Dundalk High, Dundalk Community College and Essex Community College.

Included on the Reds' pitching staff are Jason Mills (2-0, East Carolina University), Ryan Clark (1-0, George Washington), Mike Lerner (1-1, Mary Washington) and Joe Nestor (Campbell).

Mills played for Atholton, Clark for Mount St. Joe and Nestor and Lerner for Hammond.

Jeff Cyran (University of Maryland Baltimore County), a former teammate with Nestor and Lerner at Hammond when they were all seniors in their 1991 county championship season, plays left field for the Reds.

Jeff Frey, another 1991 Golden Bear, catches.

Eric Glasgow, Matt Donovan, Charles Minnick and Jeff Lavis are other county players on the Reds.

Glasgow played first base for Glenelg, Donovan second base for Oakland Mills, Minnick third base for Atholton and Lavis first base for the 1991 Hammond squad.

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