It began in February with three goals , and the final one for the Carroll County Rangers youth baseball team is to win the Dizzy Dean World Series.
It can complete the trifecta this weekend in Mountain Brook, Ala., when it competes against nine other national teams.
The 13-14-year-old Rangers, in only their second season in the highly competitive Baltimore Metro League, first were looking to have a successful season. They did, posting a 31-12 record to finish third in the league.
Their second goal was to win the Dizzy Dean state title, thus qualifying them for the national tournament. They did that in convincing fashion, winning four straight games to win the double-elimination tournament without falling from the winner's bracket.
"We have a pretty good group of kids and they're looking to bring it home," said assistant coach Doug Arnold Sr. "They played very well, winning all four games in the state tournament, and look like they're ready to go. I think the key to our success is our balance. It's been a different player each game who's come up with the big hit or pitched the big game."
Forty-five players showed up at the team's first tryout session in February. The roster was cut to 14 players prior to the Metro League opener in early May.
Each of the five public high schools in Carroll is represented on the roster. There also are players from Calvert Hall, Gilman, Loyola and Delone Catholic (Hanover, Pa.).
Arnold said uniting them to form a solid team was much easier than one would think.
The squad also won two other tournaments , taking the Baltimore City Early Bird Tournament in April before claiming the Pikesville Invitational in June.
Darrell Smith (Francis Scott Key) led the team with a 6-1 mark and a 2.60 ERA. Tim Shifflet (Liberty) had an 8-6 mark and a 3.60 ERA. Jason Gribbon (Calvert Hall) and Frank McHenry (Gilman) each had five wins, and Matt Jones (South Carroll) was 4-0. Doug Arnold Jr. was 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA.
The Rangers also had plenty of offense, batting .352 as a team. Shifflett batted .456 and drove in 49 runs. Smith, outfielder Larry Airing (Francis Scott Key) and infielder Adam Straskulic (Westminster) all batted over .400.
Catcher Brian Tozer (Westminster) and infielder John Plunkert (Westminster) supply additional power in the middle of the Rangers' lineup. Each drove in 35 runs while batting over .300.
Sharing the first-base duties were Bob Warfield (Westminster, .300) and Matt Jones (South Carroll, .297). Gribbon and Chris Zienty (Gilman, .288) shared time at short.
Matt Smith (Loyola, .357, 35 stolen bases) and Todd Collins (North Carroll, .317, 18 steals) anchored a speedy outfield.
The coaching staff consists of manager Jay Gribbon, Tom Collins, Gary McHenry and Arnold.