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Baseball

Kent Island High trio anchored Skipjack staff
Garrity, Gardner and Abdalla took different paths to JuCo destination

WYE MILLS – They all started at Kent Island High School and finished at Chesapeake College, but baseball pitchers Devin Gardner, Joe Garrity and Danny Abdalla took dramatically different routes to the college.

Gardner took the express route – two highly productive seasons with the Skipjacks right out of high school after leading Kent Island to a state championship as a senior. Abdalla took the scenic route, transferring to Chesapeake after spending three semesters at Old Dominion University. And Garrity’s trip included a three-year layover between his freshman and sophomores seasons as he rehabbed a serious elbow injury.

However it happened, they were reunited as the heart of a 2010 pitching staff that led Chesapeake to a 37-15 record that included two victories over eventual Region XX champion Potomac State College and the Skipjacks’ highest regional finish since winning the region title on the way to their 2005 World Series appearance.

"We weren’t very close in high school, but we really came together this year," said Garrity, who was Most Valuable Player of the 2005 Bayside Conference Senior All-Star Game. "Now we’re not just teammates, we’re also really close friends."

"It’s been fun playing together again," said Abdalla, who was a second-team all-state selection as a junior and a first-team choice as a senior in 2007. "I came up at the end of my sophomore year, so I played with both Joe and also Devin when he reached the varsity."

"We always joke around and try to one-up each other," said Gardner, who was Team MVP as a senior on the Kent Island squad that won a 2008 state championship. "We’ve become pretty close."

The reunited trio combined for a 16-3 regular-season record and a 3.35 earned-run average as the Skipjacks set a school record for regular-season victories with 36.

Gardner (7-1, 1.68 ERA in the regular season) struck out 70 in 59 innings with just 19 walks, finishing his home career with a no-hitter against Delaware Tech. Garrity (4-1, 2.78 ERA) started and relieved for the Skipjacks, with 55 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 45 1/3 innings. Abdalla (5-1) struggled with a high ERA (6.02) and low strikeout-to-walks ratio (39 strikeouts/30 walks), but nearly always seemed to find a way to win.

"They were very consistent, hard working and they added a lot of team spirit," Chesapeake head coach Frank Szymanski said of the trio. "They were always into the game and always helping people out. It was kind of fun to have all three of them on the team."

All three players were coached by Glenn Brainer, the longtime Kent Island High coach who also sent two sons – Bryan and Brad – on to very successful Chesapeake College playing careers.

"It always goes back to the Brainer family," Szymanski said with a laugh. "Glenn has always been supportive of the college and the program. He really did a good job getting those kids ready for the next level."

"I came here because of my friendship with Brad Brainer," recalled Garrity. "He and his brother, Bryan, told me the coaching staff at Chesapeake was amazing. They told me Coach Szymanski expects a lot from you, but he also works with you. You don’t see too many coaches who care about their players like he does."

"I was originally supposed to go here (Chesapeake) before I went to Old Dominion," said Abdalla. "It’s thanks to Coach Szymanski that I’m still playing ball."

Szymanski credited Dr. Ed Baker, the college’s professor of kinesiology, with helping to eventually land Abdalla.

"Dr. Baker and I recruited Danny out of high school," Szymanski said. "We really liked him and gave him our best pitch. We were happy that he came back to us the second time around."

Szymanski said assistant coach Donnie Gowe, who coached Gardner’s summer league team, and Linda Earls, a Chesapeake associate professor who helped Gardner develop his academic plan, were instrumental in landing Gardner.

"I liked that he was intelligent, talented and hard working," said Szymanski of Gardner, who won 13 games in two seasons with the Skipjacks.

All three pitched in last weekend’s Region XX tournament. Only Garrity figured in a decision, taking a hard-luck loss against Potomac State in the winners’ bracket final after blanking the Catamounts for the first six innings.

Szymanski said Garrity’s strong effort – spacing six hits over seven innings, and holding a 1-0 lead until Kurtis Voytell’s two-out, three-run double in the seventh – was indicative of his courageous comeback season.

"He waited a long time for this second opportunity and he worked extremely hard to get here," said Szymanski. "His numbers and performance this season were great. In the regional tournament, he did a tremendous job in a huge game for us."

All three pitchers are now considering their next move. Gardner and Garrity hope to play at a four-year college, while Abdalla is torn between continuing his education and entering the Coast Guard. Szymanski said the three will be hard to replace.

"They were a huge part of our success this year," said Szymanski. "They are leaving big shoes to fill."

Pictured, left to right, are Devin Gardner, Danny Abdalla, and Joe Garrity. All three pitched for Kent Island High School, and the trio combined to help Chesapeake College compile a 37-15 baseball record this season. (Photo by Marcie Molloy)

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