WESTMINSTER -- Carroll County Pools could have wrapped up the first-ever postseason championship of the Carroll County Unlimited Baseball League Thursday night.
But the Westminster Storms wouldn't cooperate.
They led Carroll Pools 7-2 when darkness covered Landon Burns Park and stopped the title game after five innings.
It will be resumed there today at 1 p.m.
If the Storms -- who are in the losers' bracket -- hang on, a deciding game will be played immediately after.
Both teams were missing starters Thursday night, although Carroll Pools seemed the worse off.
Pools jumped to a 2-0 first-inning lead, only to see the Storms retaliate with four runs in the home half.
Two scored on a wild throw by Todd Sadowski, a shortstop filling in for Carroll County Pools at catcher.
Storms starter Jason Green settled down after his rocky first frame.
Using his fast ball and a sharp-breaking curve, he blanked the Pools after the first inning.
Pools lefty Ciaran McAlonan, normally a designated hitter and pitching only his second game of the year, wasn't as lucky.
After yielding four in the first, his control deserted him in the fourth when the Storms scored three times without a hit, using walks and Pools miscues.
While the game looks like a goner, Pools manager Trevis Alban looks forward to today's game.
"I'll have everybody there," he said, adding that his best pitcher, Chris Grove, will start the deciding contest. But Grove must beat a Storms team that has totally dominated the two-year-old league if the Pools team is to win the title.
Westminster has won both regular-season titles with a combined record of 39-5 and beat the Pools five of six this year before losing to that fellow Westminster-based squad 3-2 in a playoff game two weeks ago.
Storms manager John Smith credits team depth for his success.
"Our bench is as strong as the guys on the field," Smith said.
His players, like most in the new loop, are mostly in their early 20s and played on area high school teams. Many play college ball.
Smith, who is also league coordinator, says the loop is a great alternative for these players who have little other opportunity to play baseball after their school diamond careers are over, and yet "don't want to give up and go to slow-pitch softball."
He had a big hand in starting the circuit two years ago after being rebuffed by the South Penn League in his effort to enter a team there.
Smith said the idea for the Carroll League came to him as he rode home from that fruitless Penn League meeting in Hanover, Pa.
"I said to [Storms assistant] John Hutchins, 'We have enough kids to form our own unlimited league' ", Smith recalled.
He subsequently put the word out, attracting five teams for last year's inaugural campaign. The league has been a success, and Smith says it could jump to eight teams next year.
"[South Penn] did me a favor really. We have 125 more men
playing baseball who wouldn't have been able to play," said the 50-year-old Westminster resident.
Smith, whose 23 years of baseball coaching spans Little League through unlimited ball, likes the latter best.
"It's like the pros. It's a nice feeling when you make a move and it works out. You feel like '[Earl] Weaver ain't got nothing on me,' " Smith said with a chuckle.
Today he goes against Alban, a man half his age, whom he once coached in the Westminster Babe Ruth program.
"It's do or die," said Smith. "One will work out. One won't."