It was overcast for most of yesterday's game. It even rained a little bit during some rumblings of thunder. But just as the game ended, the sun came out.
That was rather symbolic, because 24 years ago in Gambrills, the sun began shining on Arundel High baseball when Bernie Walter became the school's baseball coach.
Yesterday, No. 6 Arundel defeated Glen Burnie, 5-3, and the Wildcats gave the game ball to Walter. It was his 400th career victory, making him the third high school baseball coach in Maryland to reach the milestone.
Kurt Light (4-1) scattered seven hits, struck out 11 and did not walk a batter while throwing 111 pitches. It was a rare game -- neither pitcher walked a batter.
The host Wildcats (11-2) got RBIs from Brian Lima and George Lettis, and a two-run triple by Austin Decker while scoring four unearned runs in the fourth off Kevin Wholey. Those runs staked Light a lead he never relinquished.
Wholey (4-2) pitched well in defeat, also giving up seven hits. He struck out two and threw only 65 pitches in six innings. The Gophers (8-5) got solo homers from Seth Murphy and Dale Nguyen for 1-0 and 2-1 leads before three errors in the fourth let Wholey down.
Once Light got the 5-2 lead, he struck out seven in a row before giving up a two-out, RBI double to Nguyen in the sixth. Light notched strikeouts 10 and 11 in the Gophers' last at-bat, the last ending the game for Walter's big moment.
"We treated it like a normal game. Glen Burnie has been playing well lately, and they're pretty competitive," said Light. "But being part of coach Walter's 400th is pretty special."
Walter (400-113) is winningest coach in state public school history and the first Anne Arundel County coach to ring up 400.
"I told the team, when you win 400 games, it comes down to two things," Walter said. "It means you've had a lot of good players, and you've coached a long time. I've had both of those."
Walter has led Arundel High teams to seven championships in 11 appearances in the state final four; in all but one of those appearances, his teams have made it to the championship game. On the way, they've also won 11 region titles, as well, including six straight, from 1991 through last spring. All of those titles are state records.
Nick Jauschnegg, Walter's assistant coach for 20 years, explained the secret to success as nothing complicated.
"It's attention to details, recognizing who the good athletes are, and putting them in positions where they can excel," he said. "Practicing hard and being committed are things Bernie emphasizes. And we have some fun doing it.
"I think we play a style of baseball -- aggressive, forcing mistakes and putting the pressure on opponents to make plays -- that is a fun way to play."
Walter doesn't take all the credit, and yesterday afternoon he was thanking all of the former assistants who helped him establish the premier program.
"I've really been fortunate to have a great bunch of assistant coaches," he said. "I depend on Nick a lot, and John Hall coaches our legion team [Mayo Post 226] in the summer and has done a great job with our pitchers.
"Tut O'Hara was a terrific coach, and there were other guys who contributed to help us -- like Denis Schanberger [Chesapeake's football assistant], Mel Montgomery [now Old Mill's coach] and Lou DiMenna [Severna Park's JV coach]."
Glen Burnie coach Bruce Sider, who has been going against Walter for 18 years, said, "Bernie knows the game and can teach it, because he's a great educator."
A prime example occurred in the 1995 season, when North County was everyone's favorite to win not only the region title but the state championship, as well. Those who saw Arundel early in the season wrote off the Cats.
Even Walter referred to them as "one of the worse defensive teams we've ever had, and I don't know if they're going to get any better."
But with Walter driving them to improve, that team went 18-6, won the region and Arundel's seventh state title -- a story that has happened before in Walter's tenure. Some teams regress as the season goes on. Arundel almost always improves.
"They have to learn how to win, and it's something that doesn't happen overnight," said Walter.
It's the Arundel way.
Severna Park 14, North County 9: Keith Mankiewicz hit two home runs, and the host Falcons (9-4) scored 12 runs in the first two innings as coach Jim Pitt won his 350th game, making him the second winningest coach in Anne Arundel County behind Arundel's Bernie Walter.
Maryland's winningest baseball coaches
Coach, Schools (Years), Record, Pct.
Terry Terrill, Riverdale Baptist (1976-97), 454-110, .807
Al Frank, Archbishop Curley (1963-97), 437-345, .559
Bernie Walter, Arundel (1974-97), 400-113, .780
Bob Lumsden, Poly (1944-67), 383-62, .861
Joe Binder, Calvert Hall (1972-74, 1983-1997), 372-108, .775
Harry Lentz, Northeast (1966-95), 349-200, .636
Jim Pitt, S.Park (1974-97), Annapolis (1970-73), 350-206, .629
Larry Butts, P.Hall (1985-97), Parkville (1970-84), 344-121, .739
Roger Wrenn, Patterson (1973-97), 333-138, .700
Lou Jenkins, Surrattsville (1968-93), 329-126, .723
Bumps Vaughn, Bowie (1965-84), 313-49, .847
Donny Keys, Oxon Hill (1971-94), 302-170, .640
Note: Lumsden is retired. Lentz is deceased. Jenkins now coaches at St. Mary's College and Vaughn at Prince Georges C.C. All others are active high school coaches.
Pub Date: 4/25/97