For the Baltimore Bays' fans, last night signaled the start of March Happiness.
Backed by Danny Santoro's four goal and two assists, the Bays extended their winning streak to 34 games and captured their third straight I League championship with an 11-4 victory over the Tulsa Roughnecks.
After witnessing only one goal in the first quarter -- scored by the Bays -- the sellout crowd at Canton's Du Burns Arena, watched the Bays break the game open with five goals in a span of 4 minutes, 6 seconds.
"In the second quarter, we went with a little more high-pressure offense with less dribbling," said Santoro, who was named the game's MVP. "We got inside the box and that's where opportunities happen. I was a little flat last week, so I pushed it up a little tonight."
Santoro helped put the Bays on the board first when he fed Joe Koziol for a goal 10: 23 into the game.
Santoro, a Franklin graduate, then initiated the pivotal second-quarter run when he converted a perfect cross pass from Mark Mettrick, who delivered it from the right corner.
Billy Ronson, the league's assist leader with 26, made it a 3-0 ballgame with an unassisted goal 51 seconds later and Mike Barger upped the lead to five with a perfectly placed header.
Baltimore (11-0), which completed its third straight undefeated season, took a 7-0 lead on back-to-back goals by Santoro before Tulsa's Justin Elkington ended the run with a goal at the 13: 13 mark.
Eric McClellan and Koziol opened the second-half scoring on feeds from Ronson (four assists) and Santoro and Jason Dieter answered a three-goal run by Tulsa.
"You worry at the beginning of the year, 'Are we going to let down? Is it not going to mean as much?' But these guys just keep going and going," said Bays coach Kevin Healey, who was named Coach of the Year for the third straight season. "This is a very good soccer team. That's the bottom line."
NOTES: Bays goalie Dave Tenney, who finished with nine saves, was selected as Goalkeeper of the Year, and teammate Mike Barger was chosen Defensive Player of the Year.
Tulsa 0 1 1 2 -- 4
Bays .1 6 2 2 -- 11
Pub Date: 3/09/98