Bob Maxey's new coaching style paid another dividend yesterday for the hard-hitting Hammond baseball team as the Bears upset host Centennial, 5-3.
Hammond (7-3, 4-1) now heads into tomorrow's showdown against league-leading Glenelg with first place on the line. Glenelg also has just one league loss.
Maxey, who in past years displayed an authoritative coaching style, has his young team so loose it was able to get away with dousing him with water before yesterday's game even began.
"They said I looked a little hot so they threw some water on me," Maxey said. "They're full of practical jokes, and I find I don't have to yell and scream at these guys, but can joke around with them. Every team has a different chemistry."
None of the Bears seemed worried yesterday when Hammond got seven hits in the first four innings but led just 1-0.
And the Bears stayed calm even after Jeff Busick's RBI single was nullified and he was called out in the second inning for using a bat that was one ounce too light.
"This was our 10th game and this was the first time we broke on top so we weren't worried," Maxey said. "We usually don't start playing until about the fourth or fifth inning."
Joe Brewer scored the first run in the first inning when he tripled and scored on a throwing error by Centennial right fielder Brian Dowell.
Centennial (5-5, 5-3), the only county team to have beaten Glenelg, went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a walk and three Hammond infield errors.
The defensive lapses didn't seem to upset Maxey and right-handed Hammond starter Ross Kaplan (3-0), the winning pitcher.
"I'm not worried about it you guys," Kaplan shouted to his teammates after the sloppy inning had ended. "I know you can hit."
The Bears are averaging nine hits and five runs per game, and bounced right back to score three runs on three hits in the top of the fifth. Kaplan's confidence was infectious.
Centennial starter Brent Mertes walked Brewer and gave up singles to Matt Cyran, Chad Weiner and Rob Laing, the last two with two outs. An infield throwing error also contributed to one of the three runs.
Cyran (3-for-4), Weiner (2-for-4) and David Brewer (2-for-3) led Hammond's 12-hit attack.