After winning three consecutive Baltimore County recreation league titles with Cockeysville in 9-10 and 11-12 baseball, coach Keith Heaps wanted a new challenge. So, with players from Cockeysville and some others from around the metropolitan area, he took over the Putty Hill 13-14 team and joined the competitive Baltimore Metro Sophomore Baseball League.
"We knew that we would be respectable, but I never expected this," said Heaps.
"This" was the 13-14 National Amateur Federation World Series title won in Northville, Mich., last weekend -- the perfect ending to a 38-5 season.
FTC Putty Hill went all the way to Michigan to wind up playing Reisterstown for the title. Putty Hill won, 8-5, after defeating Reisterstown the day before, 6-0. During the regular season, the teams split two games.
"We never thought we would be crossing paths at the World Series, especially after they beat us the first time," Heaps said of a 16-5 loss in May. "All during the winter, everyone was telling us how difficult the league was, then we were able to reel off 14 straight wins after that loss."
Putty Hill won the East division and Reisterstown won the West. To give each other a chance to advance in the regionals, Putty Hill chose to go to Redford, Mich., while Reisterstown went to Nashville, Tenn.
To help pay for the trip, the Putty Hill players raised more than $4,000 through sponsor donations, car washes and candy sales. The club spent 11 days on the road.
About 20 parents joined the team in Northville and watched their triumph. Heaps said the parents initiated the move into the Metro league.
"A lot of parents wanted to know if there was a better brand of baseball," said Heaps. "After three straight championships, it was a question of what else could we accomplished that we haven't already."
As a Metro league member, Putty Hill was able to recruit players and face teams from across the area. They played on the bigger regulation fields, with 90 feet between bases and 60 feet from the pitching mound to the plate, but most of the players had become familiar with the fields from playing in middle school.
"If you have the ability and opportunity, that counts for a lot," Heaps said. "These kids have the talent to be somebody at this sport. But for the kids to work hard on the field as well as off and have it pay off with a championship, it will be an experience that they will never forget."
Mike Couser was selected the tournament's outstanding performer. Jay Homa was the leading hitter with a .535 average in four games.