Blast refuses to melt, beats the Heat, 12-10; Stitz scores game-winner off steal; team exits cellar


HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Don't ask Harrisburg defender Mike Williams what happened last night when he attempted to leave his end with the ball and the score tied at 10 with the Blast.

One instant, Williams had control and was sizing up the field. The next, he was reaching with his foot. Nothing. Out of nowhere came Barry Stitz to relieve him of the ball.

Slowly but surely Baltimore's steadiest player advanced on Heat goalie Doug Petras. He waited, waited and Petras committed. Good night.

Stitz cuffed the ball into the goal, giving the Blast a 12-10 lead it held for the last 9: 17 of play.

It was the Blast's fifth victory in its last six games, and Harrisburg's fifth setback in its last six outings. Consequently, the victory lifted the Blast (9-11) by the Heat (8-12) in the standings.

Trailing by a goal when Tarik Walker scored a two-pointer with just 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter, the Blast jumped on the Heat quickly in the final period.

Franklin McIntosh first tied the game 10-10 after three minutes, which set up Stitz's play against the unsuspecting Williams.

The game marked the return of Blast captain Lance Johnson, who was out since Nov. 28 with a broken bone in his leg. It was as if he was never away, particularly midway through the second half when he ran down a Heat player away on a breakaway. The play didn't even result in a shot.

"I've had about three scrimmages with the team -- no contact, of course -- and, quite frankly, I'm a little surprised I felt so good out there," Johnson said.

Said Blast coach Kevin Healey: "All along I've been thinking if we can just hang on during all these injuries, we'll have a rested team come the playoffs. It could be a good situation for us."

Getting by the Heat and squaring the season series 2-2 on this occasion involved handing out more responsibility to some players. Healey said Danny Santoro and Shane Dougherty, in particular, answered the challenge.

"Danny got our first goal when it appeared as if we might never score. That was a big one," the coach said.

How snake-bitten is the Blast? With four players on the injured list, three of them for an extended period, the team signed ex-Philadelphia forward Marcelo Valencia. He appeared to be working in nicely during a half-dozen shifts when he suddenly went down.

"Can you believe it?" Healey said. "He blew out his knee and is lost. As a result, we're going to sign J. J. Kremer, a local boy [Calvert Hall and UMBC] who's been working out with us. We'll be OK."

Blast tonight

Opponent: Kansas City Attack

Site: Kemper Arena, Kansas City, Mo.

Time: 8: 35

Radio: WJFK (1300 AM)

Outlook: NPSL teams are in the survival-of-the-fittest part of the schedule. For example, eight players selected to play in the All-Star Game last Wednesday had to be replaced due to injuries suffered last weekend. Kansas City (8-11), missing four starters through the first two weeks of the season, got off to a bad start but has turned things around lately and is 4-5 at home. The Blast has numerous injuries, too.

Pub Date: 1/23/99

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