CATCHING UP with the notebook as summer sports wind down:
BASEBALL: They played in Southhaven, Miss., and their victory did not get much notice here. But in late July, a team from the Ellicott City-based Howard County Youth Program won the national 14-and-under title in the annual 16-team tournament conducted by Dizzy Dean Baseball Inc.
The Raiders, coached by Ellicott City's Gregg Draper and Columbia's Don Kemp with help from several others, became only the second team in HCYP's 50-plus years to win a postseason "world series."
The Raiders ended their season with a 45-10 record. Finishing second in the competitive Baltimore Metro League's West Division gave them second pick among league teams for a postseason tournament in their age group.
"We picked Dizzy Dean because this team, essentially the same boys, did pretty well in it two years ago," said Draper, who called the 14-player squad "a really committed group of boys."
The Raiders, unbeaten in their five tournament games, blew through their first three opponents, beating Bartow County, Ga., 11-1; Oak Grove, Miss, 21-0; and Meridian County, Fla., 12-0. Then things got tougher, but they beat Lufkin, Texas, back-to-back, 4-2 and 5-2, to win the double-elimination tournament.
The Raiders players: Joe Couch, Conor Downs, Michael Draper, Danny Druzgala, Ryan Horst, Craig Howser, Kevin Hughes, Ryan Kemp, John Kuchno, Ricky Laidler, Sean Lamarre, Kyle Melan, Elliott Poehlman and Harry Slade.
SOCCER: Maybe you recall the piece we wrote in June about an over-40 women's soccer team in the Howard County women's league that was about to embark on its second tour of Germany in two years.
So when the ladies got back, we asked goalie and unofficial team spokesman Debbi Hasty how it went. Excerpts from her e-mail reply:
"The soccer was amazing -- nine or 10 games, a lot more than last year with a small-sided tournament thrown in for fun. We played all ages, men and women, made lots of new friends. One team wants to come over here next year, and won't that be a shock [for them when they discover] you can't drink beer on the field after the game?
"The mayor of the city of Bruhl presented us a plaque from the city commemorating our return visit. He also was the referee for the game. The men at Bruhl had a fest for us in their clubhouse that included red, white and blue table decorations, flags and food since it was July 4, along with a 'Frank Sinatra' singer to entertain us well into the late night. ...
"Our [one-day] trip to Prague in the Czech Republic was more of a wine-tasting party for six hours with a stop at Nuremberg and the Adidas factory thrown in. As for [the team we played there] Slavic Prague, they schooled us in soccer royally, maybe 8- or 9-0. I think they had five national-team players. ... But afterward, they took us to a very Czech garden restaurant with a few backrooms where they had a meal for us and live music -- violins, et al -- till late at night."
POLE VAULTING: Ellicott City's Tomlinson "Tom" Rauscher shared an experience that shows that sports, even for older competitors, is sometimes a matter of overcoming not only opponents, but also the unexpected.
Rauscher, 59, who took up vaulting as a teenager, is a three-time national age-group champ and two-time National Senior Olympics titlist.
He has spent a lot of time this year in Florida as a computer consultant, which for his sport had its upside and downside.
On the upside, he was near a longtime age-group competitor, Joe Johnston, north of Orlando. Johnston, 70 and still competing, welcomed Rauscher to his private practice pit.
On the downside, Rauscher had to ship his three Fiberglas poles to July's National Games in Pittsburgh. When he got there, one end of his carefully packaged poles had been crushed nearly flat, making all three unusable. He had to borrow a pole -- not easy because poles vary in length, flex and weight, meaning a vaulter is highly sensitive to his or her equipment.
"I normally start at 10 feet in competition," Rauscher said. "But I really struggled in Pittsburgh, because the pole I finally found was about 8 inches shorter than mine and stiffer."
But he won with a vault of 10 feet, 6 inches, well shy of his best, 14-6, set when he was younger.
Back home, he received a settlement check from the parcel service for the poles that, he said, had cost about $900 new.
"They pay 50 cents a pound," Rauscher said, "so the check was for $15.50."
Call the writer about anything to do with amateur sports in Howard County at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@balt sun.com.