The Catonsville Cubs 14U travel baseball team proved that playing fundamental baseball and doing the little things together can produce a championship team.
Coach Tim Tacka’s club, which plays its home games at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, won 24 consecutive games after losing the second game of the season.
They won the regular-season championship in the 14-team Mid-Atlantic Baseball Association with a 25-1 record.
The key to the team’s success has been unity.
“I’ve had some of these kids since they were 8 years old,” Tacka said.
Including in that group are the top six hitters in the lineup, who were all batting above .300 through 22 games.
Lead-off hitter Cory Turner (.518 batting average) was followed by Kevin Alberg (.317), Jackson Tacka (.550), Mark Brady (.393), Sam Brown (.459) and Tom Brown (.406).
The magnificent six had scored 170 of the team’s 220 runs through 22 games and when they aren’t hitting they contribute in other ways.
“Kevin Alberg is the bunting king,” said Tacka, noting he’s had a team-high 15 bunts this season.
Turner leads the team in getting hit by pitches and his 11 bruises are not by accident.
“We worked on that in the winter. If they pitch inside turn on it,” Tacka said.
They also worked on strength, speed and agility in the offseason, and it has paid off for a team that only hit two home runs the entire season.
“We have stolen a ton of bases,” said Tacka, noting that Brady, Turner and his son Jackson Tacka are leading the team.
The club won 14 games by the 10-run slaughter rule and often has a lead it never relinquishes in the first inning.
“We get right on top of it right away,” Tacka said. “The big thing is hustling on the bases even if you get a walk.”
In addition to averaging 10 runs per game, the Cubs have only yielded 62 total runs all season.
The dynamic pitching trio of Jackson Tacka, and twins Tom and Sam Brown have been consistently stellar.
Tacka, who lives in Catonsville and will be a freshman at Gilman this fall, was 10-0 with over 70 strikeouts and he pitched a no-hitter in a 10-0 whitewash of the AYRA A’s, of Westminster, on June 22.
The only A’s base runner, who reached on an error, was picked off and that extended the left-hander’s streak of picking off a runner in every game he has pitched.
The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Tacka throws a fastball, a straight knuckleball and a knuckleball that drops, and he won’t hesitate to throw the knuckler when he is behind in the count.
When Tacka isn’t on the mound, he rotates with Tom Brown at first base. The southpaw Brown posted an 8-1 record.
The 5-foot-10 181-pound Brown, who played jayvee baseball at Catonsville High as a freshman in the spring, had 64 strikeouts.
Sam Brown, who played with his brother at Catonsville, was 4-0 and the 5-10, 176-pound right-hander was the top option out of the bullpen.
Catching the standout staff is the duo of Eli Drachman and Devin Jones.
Alberg (2B), Brady (SS) and Sam Brown (3B) round out the starting infield and Ethan Boyce (LF), Turner (CF) are in the outfield along with Zack Graham (LF) and Liam Bennett (RF).
Alberg, Brady and Boyce will attend Catonsville High as freshman in the fall, while Turner played for the Mount St. Joseph JV and Bennett will start there this year.
Graham has made the most of his 29 at-bats with a .379 average and Boyce has made some outstanding catches at key moments in games.
“Turner is a vacuum in center field,” Tacka said.
Unsung heroes are assistant coaches Bob Brady and Craig Alberg, scorekeeper Chris Tacka and team mom Suzy Turner.
Mark Boyce has also helped the head coach keep the Spring Grove baseball field in shape.
The most exciting win during the 20-game winning streak was a 3-1 victory over the Finksburg Lions.
The Cubs trailed 1-0 in the sixth inning but scored three runs to win it.
Turner led off with a double, was bunted to third by Alberg and scored on a single by Tacka.
Consecutive doubles by Brady and Brown plated the final two runs.
Although the MABA regular season is over the Cubs will play in the MABA Tournament July 5-11 and the Howard County Tournament July 15-16.
Win or lose, Tacka knows the team will be together on and off the field until the final game of the season.
“They are just a good unit of kids and we don’t have any I’s,” he said. “It is a team effort every time. They pick each other up. I couldn’t be more proud of them the way they have handled themselves.”