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Johnies star turns nemesis after trade Crouse's Fuller leads sweep of former team


Eddie Fuller came back to haunt Cecil Johnies last week.

Before the season, Johnies traded the Havre de Grace outfielder to Crouse Construction, its top rival in the Maryland Semi-Pro Baseball League. Fuller made his former squad regret that trade in Crouse's three-game sweep of Johnies Sunday and Monday at Thomas Run Park.

Fuller hit a pair of two-run home runs and drove in five runs in a single inning to lead Crouse to a 12-2 win in the opener. In Monday night's game, Fuller went 4-for-4 in a 9-2 victory.

In between, in the nightcap of Sunday's doubleheader, Crouse won, 8-3.

L Fuller gets a kick out of playing against his old teammates.

"It's a little more fun to go against guys you know. That makes it mean a little bit more, especially if you beat them," he said.

Johnies hadn't lost three games in a row since entering the league in 1989. Crouse won the league championship in 1988, but has never managed to get past Johnies, two-time defending Northern Division champs.

Although one player can't make all the difference, Crouse manager Johnny Hughes said Fuller has added some extra spark to his squad.

"He's a very explosive player," said Hughes. "Eddie's got all of the skills and qualities of a good professional baseball player. He should be in the majors right now. Unfortunately, he just didn't get the right breaks."

Fuller, 28, played in the Houston Astros organization for 3 1/2 years before he was released. That's when he hooked up with Cecil Johnies. Last winter, Hughes snared him in a trade that sent pitchers Jay Witasik and Ron Wilson to Johnies.

Hughes couldn't be happier with that trade. Fuller is hitting .456, playing solid defense in center field and adding speed on the base paths.

Fuller's teammates are playing just as well. Ken Batten had a grand slam, and Chuck Harmon added a solo home run in the Johnies' series.

Crouse's pitching allowed only 10 hits in the three games against Johnies.

In the first game, the 12-2 victory, Charlie Pritchett threw a two-hitter. In the nightcap of Sunday's doubleheader, Lenny Skrivanek and Ed Luers combined for a four-hitter.

In Monday night's game, Dale Lahr allowed four hits and got the win. Johnies got two runs in the first inning, but Crouse came back quickly. Mike Hughes drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the first. Dan Oldendick also had a pair of doubles.

After the three big wins over Johnies, Crouse almost lost its edge in the first game of Wednesday night's doubleheader against Fortunato Brothers. Crouse had to come from behind for 12-6 win.

"It's hard to keep up the intensity," said first baseman Tom Mistysyn. "You play such a big series against Johnies and then you have to come right back."

Fortunato Brothers took a 3-0 lead in the second inning. Crouse got one back in the fourth when Dave Hughes tripled and scored on Mistysyn's infield groundout.

In the fifth, Mike Powell and Mistysyn both hit two-run homers to put Crouse on top, 5-3. Fortunato Brothers came back with two more in the bottom of the fifth to tie, but Fuller --ed the team's hopes for a win.

With the bases loaded in the sixth, Fuller smashed the first pitch for a home run. Fuller stood at home plate and watched the ball clear the right field fence at Thomas Run Park.

"When things are going good, you just get the feel for it. You just know when it's gone," he said.

In the second game, Fuller went 3-for-4 as Crouse won, 9-4. Batten drove in two runs on a pair of singles, while Skip Luzetsky also drove in two on a bases-loaded single.

Crouse (36-6) now has won 10 games in a row. The team has put together timely hitting, strong pitching and near-flawless defense to pull within 2 1/2 games of Johnies (41-6). Crouse also has stolen a lot of bases, including 19 in Wednesday night's doubleheader.

"We're as strong as we've ever been," said Hughes. "Johnies is a very good team, but I don't think their pitching is as good as it was last year.

"But we have to take it one day at a time. We have another game left with Johnies, and you never know with baseball. They could come out strong, and we could come out flat."

Crouse still has seven games, most postponed by rain, to make up before the playoffs begin. Johnies has two more games. One game remaining between the two should be scheduled for early this week. That could determine who wins the regular season and who gets the top seed in the league playoffs.

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