A great day for
Potomac; a great day for baseball
They were still on the field celebrating, with friends and fans and family, as the sun began its afternoon descent Sunday at Potomac State College's
They celebrated two wins against one of the top-ranked teams in the country, another district championship, and another trip to the Junior College World Series in
Sunday was a good day to be a fan of Potomac State College. But it was also a good day if you were simply a fan of good baseball.
We don't often see good baseball - I mean really good baseball. Great pitching. Dependable defense. Good and timely hitting. And all of it wrapped up in the most important games of the year.
Some players and teams play their best in the big games. Others are average. Still others don't handle the pressure well, and fade.
The pressure was on
on Sunday, and there was no room for error. Lose one game, against sixth-ranked
, and go home.
But they didn't, and after 5-0 and 6-3 wins they're going to the World Series in
Why do some excel and others fade in the big games and the clutch situations? It's mental. To succeed, you must be relaxed. To be relaxed, you must enjoy the moment, not dread the possible consequences.
That's how all the
players seemed to approach things Sunday afternoon. It made for a satisfying day for everyone, especially coach Doug Little, whose players entered the day with the right mindset after losing a tough 3-2 game to
on Saturday. That loss snapped a 20-game
"Coach Little said to just give ourselves a chance to win,'' said left fielder Tino Sloboda, who went 3-for-6 with two doubles, a triple and four runs scored in the two games.
scored nine runs, had 19 hits and made only one error on the day.
"I don't think it was our best day of the year, but I think we played very good,'' Sloboda added. "
has a very good ball club. They made us compete. Today, the biggest thing was giving ourselves a chance to win. And we did. That's why we ended up on top, and that's why we're going back to
Bill Wooten, who hit a game-tying two-run homer in the second game, said the Catamounts are well-drilled in how to succeed at the plate in clutch situations. They showed it on Sunday, as
batters were 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position, a .352 average.
Little said he knows he has players who turn in big performances in big games.
"We've had guys step up in clutch situations and the nice thing about it is it's not the same guys all the time,'' he said. "That's a sign of a good team."
on Sunday saw a good team play good baseball. That included
's first-round opponent in the World Series, which had a scout in Keyser for the twinbill.
Everything starts with pitching, and Sunday started with Joe Stupka firing a three-hit shutout, and ended with Pat Adkins pitching 4 2-3 shutout relief innings in the second. Second-game starter Zac Thomas pitched 4 1-3 good innings and really made only two mistakes, two fast balls that were hit for home runs.
The pitching staff's performance, against the No. 6 team in the nation? Eighteen innings, 10 hits, 3 earned runs, 3 walks and 15 strikeouts.
Also important was the fact that only three times in 18 innings did a
leadoff man reach base.
All Adkins did was come in at a pivotal point in the deciding game, throw strikes and get the win. The left-hander came on with
trailing 3-1 in the fifth, and shut the door by throwing 49 pitches, with 42 being strikes.
was 6-for-17 with runners in scoring position,
was 0-for-12, including 0-for-7 in the championship game.
With the help of a double play, Stupka faced just one over the minimum over the final four innings of his first-game gem.
"I just went out there and tried to give us a chance to win, and the rest of it just fell into place,'' he said. "Brennen Dayton called a great game, and when the defense makes the plays behind you, it's easy to pitch.
"We're going back to the World Series. That was our goal when we started. So, now it's time to win it."
Mike Mathews is a
Times-News sports writer. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.