Rec Sports Spotlight: Nationals take 13-14 Prep Division crown
Mike Scheller had dropped out of coaching in Sykesville’s in-house baseball program for a few years. This year, he decided to return, and he picked the right time to do it.
His Nationals team won the championship of Sykesville’s ages 13-14 Prep Division.
These kids had never played together, and it took awhile for them to jell. But Scheller was patient through the team’s early ups and downs. After all, he had two able assistant coaches to help him through the rough spots-two coaches he really enjoyed working with.
Those coaches were his sons Chris and Eric.
The Schellers watched and worked as the Nationals split their first four games. But then things came together.
“After the first few games, I could see they blended well whatever positions I used them in,” Mike Scheller said. “That made my job a lot easier.”
He explained the team’s fifth or sixth game of the regular season was a big one. The Nationals were down 4-1 after three innings, but they rallied to take a slim lead.
However they had to keep scoring because their opponents also kept scoring. But the Nationals handled the pressure through the final innings and hung on to win 11-10.
The players didn’t realize it then, but their team was already in the midst of an eight-game winning streak. They would win the final eight games in their schedule to finish 10-2.
Scheller noted that the league does not pay much attention to standings, but it would be reasonable to assume that the Nats had finished near the top.
There are several reasons why the team was that good.
“The chemistry blended well,” Scheller said. “When they were a couple of runs behind, they didn’t hang their heads. When they made an error, they didn’t hang their heads. They kept their minds on business.”
They also had mainstays who consistently stepped up to do the job. Cameron Simmerer and Garrett Rodoff led the mound corps, and a few others chipped in as well.
First baseman Dakota White saved a lot of errors by snagging wild throws, and catcher Colin Williams played well defensively, particularly in avoiding passed balls.Tyler Pressman was very good in the outfield.
Sometimes players had to move to other positions, and they always handled those new positions well.
“We had a lot of versatility; that was the nice part,” Scheller said.
With all of these positives going for him, the coach was fairly confident as his team journeyed to Freedom Park where the Prep Division’s postseason championship tournament was played.
“The Phillies were the team to beat. I thought if we could get past them, we could win the whole thing,” Scheller said.
They found out right off the bat how well they would do against the Phils because they were the Nationals’ first playoff opponent. The Phils made it rough in that June 9 contest.
They led 7-1 when Scheller’s team came to the plate in the bottom of the third inning. But three outs later, the Nationals trailed only 7-6.
Elijah Eouwens had a big two-run double in the Nationals’ five-run third inning outburst.
White had an RBI single in the fourth inning when the Nationals scored three more times to go ahead for good. They held a 10-7 lead in the final inning and had to hold off the Phils, who scored twice in that last frame.
Reliever Rodoff got the final out to give his Nationals a 10-9 win.
Pressman and Nick Anderson were each 2-for-3 in that game for the winners.
Game 2 was a lot easier as the Nationals coasted to an 18-5 win over the Orioles two days later.
The O’s scored five first-inning runs, but the Nationals matched that total in their half of the frame. Then they scored five more runs in the second, five in the fifth, and were gone.
Ryan Schlauch was 2-for-4 for the winners as was Simmerer. Anderson was 3-for-5, and Rodoff was on base four times with two hits and two walks. Tyler Minor was 3-for-4, and Timmy White went 1-for-1, walking three times and scoring two runs.
They met the Astros for the championship June 16. The Astros beat the Nationals 8-3 in the season’s fourth game. However they weren’t doing it this time.The Nats would score in every inning to bury the Astros 17-8 and clinch the title.
The Astros led 7-6 after three innings, but they got outscored 11-1 thereafter.
Anderson, along with Rodoff and Minor, went 3-for-6 for the Nationals. Pressman went 3-for-5.
“It was great to see. [The players] worked hard the whole season,” Scheller said. “To see them get the fruits of their labor was really exciting for them.”
He said he had warned the players never to rest on their laurels and felt that his warning had put them in the frame of mind to keep pressing onward.
“I told them they had to forget their last win and take care of business,” Scheller said. “They responded to that.”
However, Scheller says he will probably go back into retirement next year.
“It’s time for somebody else to step up and coach,” he said. Then he added, “maybe my sons will take it over.”
And thus keep it all in the family.
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