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Baseball

’Jacks start final week still in baseball title mix
Chesapeake faces tough finish, starting with western swing

If the Skipjacks win the state championship, they will certainly have earned it.

Seven teams remain alive for the Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference baseball championship as the season enters its final week – and Chesapeake College’s final five games are all against title contenders. The fourth-place Skipjacks (29-16 overall, 13-6 league) play doubleheaders Tuesday at third-place Garrett College (29-16, 14-6) and Wednesday at sixth-place Hagerstown Community College (24-20, 12-7), and probably need to sweep both to remain in contention.

If they go 4-0 on their Western Maryland road trip, the state title could very well be decided Thursday in Wye Mills. That’s when the Skipjacks host first-place Community College Baltimore County-Catonsville (28-15, 16-5) in their regular-season finale. CCBC-Catonsville finishes its regular-season schedule Friday with a doubleheader against Allegany College of Maryland.

"This is what you play for," said Frank Szymanski, the Skipjacks’ eighth-year head coach. "It’s exciting to be a part of this race. This is the latest we’ve been in the title chase since I’ve been here.

"We have to take them one game at a time and not get ahead of ourselves," said Szymanski. "I tell the boys we need to go inning-by-inning, or even pitch-by-pitch. That’s the only way to approach this week."

Second-place Anne Arundel Community College (20-17, 12-4) has the fewest league losses, but also the most remaining games to play. The Pioneers must find a way to fit in eight league games this week due to rainouts – adding another wrinkle to an already-crazy title chase.

Montgomery College Germantown (22-13, 16-8) is – to use a golf term – "in the clubhouse." Germantown has already completed its regular-season schedule, but its hopes for a share of the title hinge on Catonsville losing its final three games.

Chesapeake did what it had to do last week to make this week meaningful. The Skipjacks sandwiched wins over Prince George’s and Harford around a loss to CCBC-Catonsville, then earned a doubleheader split with Frederick Saturday when Kurt Bruce and Eddie West combined on a five-hit, 1-0 shutout in the nightcap.

"These kids always play hard and I’ve never seen them give up," said Szymanski, whose squad also split a non-conference doubleheader Sunday against the Johns Hopkins University junior varsity. "I know they’re going to battle hard this last week of the regular season."

The Garrett and Hagerstown doubleheaders have added importance because they will also count toward seeding the NJCAA Region XX Division I tournament field.

Potomac State College of West Virginia University and Globe (N.Y.) Institute of Technology – the only college in NJCAA Region XV – will join Anne Arundel, Chesapeake, Garrett and Hagerstown in the regional tournament. Potomac State is a member of Region XX while Globe – the only team in Region XV – will take part in the Region XX event and is guaranteed no lower than a No. 3 seed as part of an agreement with the NJCAA.

The top three seeds will automatically advance to the Region XX Division I Final Four, which takes place May 11-13 at Garrett. The other teams will take part in a three-team, single-elimination playoff May 8th at the field of the fourth seed. The fifth and sixth seeds play an 11 a.m. game with the winner playing the host for the final berth in the regional Final Four.

"The Garrett and Hagerstown games are doubly important for us," acknowledged Szymanski.

A sweep in Tuesday’s Chesapeake-Garrett doubleheader would almost assuredly eliminate the loser from state title contention. The same goes for Wednesday’s Chesapeake-Hagerstown doubleheader.

While the Skipjacks have little room for error, Szymanski said his team is ready.

"Our pitching should be set up pretty much the way we want it," said Szymanski. "Now we just have to go out and play the games."

Chesapeake College 9, Johns Hopkins JV 2

BALTIMORE – Greg Snyder (2-0) tossed a three-hit complete game Sunday and Joe Ashley went 2-for-4 with six RBI, including a first-inning grand slam.

Snyder struck out five and walked three in the seven-inning contest. His job was made much easier by a five-run first inning and a four-run seventh highlighted by Ashley’s two-run single.

"Greg Snyder pitched a great game and Joe Ashley had a fantastic day at the plate," said Chesapeake head coach Frank Szymanski.

J.T. Gregory went 3-for-4 while Cody Holliday was 2-for-3 and drove in a run. Losing pitcher Justin Tyler lasted just two innings.

Johns Hopkins JV 8, Chesapeake College 5

BALTIMORE – Skipjacks starting pitcher Justin Martin yielded four walks and two hits while hitting two batters in one-third of an inning as the Blue Jays scored six first-inning runs in Sunday’s opener.

"It was a difficult outing for Justin, who has pitched very well at times this season," said Chesapeake head coach Frank Szymanski.

Steve Biner and Scott Swarr each had two-run singles during Hopkins’ first-inning explosion.

Winning pitcher Mike Schiffner allowed just two hits over five scoreless innings with three strikeouts, a walk, and a hit batsman.

Cody Holliday had a two-run double, Bryan Woolford added a two-run single, and Kellen Shepard delivered a run-scoring sacrifice fly in a five-run sixth inning that pulled Chesapeake within 8-5, but the Skipjacks could get no closer.

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