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Laurel baseball armed and ready for playoffs

Laurel baseball may not have a great defense or be the best at driving in runs, but they certainly can count on having one of the best pitchers in Prince George's County.

Junior Tyler Carmen struck out 15 Frederick Douglass batters in six innings and didn't allow a hit until the fifth in the second game of a doubleheader on May 5.

He has amassed 110 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings pitched for the Spartans (8-8), who lost the first game of the doubleheader 6-3 and won the second 3-0.

Laurel's second-year coach Donald Cleveland wasn't surprised by Carmen's performance, considering he had 18 strikeouts in seven innings in a 2-0 win against Friendly earlier in the season.

"If he would have pitched another inning he would have had 18," said Cleveland. "He's the best pitcher in the county. It's not even close, in my opinion. He throws four pitches for strikes. His curveball is devastating in this county..…nobody has been able to hit him. He's racked up 110 strikeouts for a reason because he basically unhittable."

Despite Carmen's dominance, he has two losses on the season because of a shaky defense behind him and a lack of hitting with runners in scoring position, which has been a surprise to Cleveland.

"I thought we are a much better hitting team than we've shown," he said. "Hitting has maybe stayed about the same (all season). We have not hit like we did last year. Most of these kids played last year. I thought we'd be better hitting the ball and we're not. To score six runs all day today is very frustrating."

The defense proved costly in the first game as a slew of errors led to a five-run inning for the Eagles, despite junior pitcher Nash Persaud striking out 10 batters.

The lack of driving in runners in scoring position also showed as the Spartans left the bases loaded several times and didn't score any runs.

"We have the bats but we've really got to come through," Carmen said. "We get the bases loaded almost every inning but we struggle to get runs, so we've got to find a way to get those runs."

The pitching, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise with four pitchers, all juniors, being able to handle the load and go deep into games.

"The pitching staff is really coming together as one," Carmen said. "We were kind of some individuals playing together at the beginning of the season, but now we're coming together as one unit and our pitching has really stepped up, everyone, up and down the staff."

Cleveland hopes his team's confidence will improve for the playoffs because they have beaten three of the five other teams the Spartans will battle for a spot in the 4A North Region championship game.

"I look forward to winning the regional championship," Carmen said. "That's the goal and it's very attainable. We can beat any team."

Laurel finished the regular season against Potomac on May 6 and the first round of the playoffs are scheduled to start Friday.

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