After winning the United States Specialty Sports Association World Series in Orlando, Fla., a couple of weeks ago, the Maryland Orioles' 16-year-old team, with players from all over the metro area, Virginia and Florida, leaves today for the Super-7 National Invitational in Marietta, Ga.
Two seven-team divisions will compete and gain a lot of exposure in front of pro and college scouts at the East Cobb Sports Complex.
"The strongest teams in the entire nation are playing in it," said Mike Williams, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound left-handed pitcher from Broadneck High who had two wins and a save in the USSSA World Series to earn Most Valuable Player honors.
"Our chemistry is excellent. Everybody believes in each other. It's a chance to prove winning the USSSA was no fluke."
The Orioles meet Orange County (Calif.) at 5.30 p.m. tomorrow followed by host East Cobb on Thursday.
A doubleheader with the Kansas City Sluggers and the Florida Hit Men on Friday concludes the Orioles' tough pool play. The top four teams in each division will then play double elimination for the national title with the finale on Sunday.
"A couple teams dropped out at the last minute, and they re-did the pool schedule," said manager Dave Caplan.
Another local team, the Chesapeake Clippers with several Mount St. Joseph players was added late to fill the vacant berths.
"We've played a tough schedule all season, and we've got the pitching, defense and depth to be right there," Caplan said.
The Orioles (37-15) played in the Baltimore Baseball Association 18-and-under league, the Baltimore City 20-and-under league and several tournaments in addition to the USSSA.
After finishing 17th out of 72 teams in the USA Junior Olympics in Jupiter, Fla., the Orioles came back to win the 12th Doc O'Malley July 4th tournament at Joe Cannon Stadium after losing a doubleheader.
"We were really upset in the locker room after losing that doubleheader because we never lose a doubleheader," said Brett Caplan (Liberty), the manager's son who has made the Oriolelanders fall showcase team.
"The next day, we came back strong and went on to win it. This team works hard. If we get the pitching, we can win it."
The Orioles' staff is solid, with Williams, 6-7 Steve Owens (Gibbons), Jim Mudgett (Century), Steve Morton (Calvert Hall), Aerik Taylor (Williamsport), Ryan Wood (Woodbridge, Va.) and Florida's Travis Ozga.
Also from Florida are outfielder Kyle Groth (Pope John Paul II High, Boca Raton) and Chris Schmitt (Delray Atlantic). They are playing as a result of Caplan's former Westinghouse colleague, Brooklyn Park's Ed Day. Day's son, Steve Day, who pitched at Brooklyn Park and Miami, coaches Pope John Paul.
Around the horn are Owens or Aaron Gabrielian (Century), who also plays the outfield, at first base; Ryan Schultheis (Wilde Lake), second base; Andy Taylor (Williamsport), third base; and Danny Benick (Greater Nanticoke), shortstop.
The starting outfielders are Jerry Jubb (Broadneck) in left field, Steve Fye (South Carroll) in center and Jon Galinski (Calvert Hall) or Groth in right field.