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Success grows on young team Manager's gamble produces 18-8 record for Bel Air Athletic Club


Bel Air Athletic Club manager Joe Williams took a chance this season with one of the youngest teams he's ever had in the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League.

Just past midseason, Williams' gamble hasn't cost him anything.

Bel Air is in fourth place in the league's Northern Division. At 18-8, the club is just about where Williams would have expected.

"The young kids have all contributed," said Williams. "Jeff Hall is our leading RBI man, Jordy Haire has three saves, and Brett Seidel is our full-time catcher."

Along with Hall and Seidel, Jeff LaPira graduated from Fallston High this spring, while Haire (Harford Community College) and Havre de Grace graduate Mark Fox (University of Maryland at Baltimore County) have just finished their freshman years in college.

Mark Puckett, a veteran of 10 years with Bel Air, coached Hall, Seidel, LaPira and Haire at Fallston High. Puckett enjoys the change in roles during the summer.

"It's nice to get to know them in a totally different atmosphere," said Puckett. "They're teammates now. I'm not coaching them. I guess it helps keep me feeling young to be around the young guys. And it's nice to see them succeed."

Hall had an RBI single and Haire came on in relief in Wednesday night's game against the Parkville Colts at Thomas Run Park.

Bel Air got off to a great start on J.R. Gild de Leon's three-run homer in the first inning. But neither the youngsters nor the veterans could pull out a victory over the Colts. Parkville won, 9-6.

Williams wasn't too worried. He expected Bel Air to even the two-game series in yesterday's scheduled contest.

"We haven't lost two games in a row since the first weekend of the season," said Williams. "I'd like to see us keep that up. Every time we've had a bad game and lost, we've bounced back and won the next one."

Against the Colts (10-8 in the Southern Division), Bel Air looked strong early.

Starter Allan Gibbons allowed only one run on two hits while striking out four in the first three innings. Then, "the strike zone changed," said Gibbons of Fallston.

In the fourth inning, the Colts got five runs off five hits to take a 6-3 lead. Gary Tolliver led off with a double, and Gary Bishop sent Gibbons (2-2) to the dugout with a triple off the center field fence.

Those were the only extra-base hits among 13 hits given up by Bel Air pitching in the game. Haire came on and allowed six hits in the final three innings.

Colts ace Mark Jackman shut down Bel Air until the sixth inning. Jackman walked Jeff Miller on a 3-2 pitch with two out, then walked Mike Comeaux and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Jonathan Kirk and Dan Vest.

Bel Air got its final run when Hall drove over Fox with a single in the seventh inning.

For at least the last nine years, Bel Air has made the postseason playoffs. At the halfway point of the 50-game season, Bel Air is in a good position to make it again.

In the Northern Division, Bel Air remains 4 1/2 games behind division-leader Cecil Johnies (20-1). The Colts are tied for third in the Southern Division, three games behind the division-leading Parkville Royals (12-4).

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