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Draper, Mann Lead Maryland In Sun Belt

By Keith Mills

The 33rd Sun Belt Baseball Classic ended last weekend with Team Maryland coming within one inning of reaching the championship game.

Led by Mount St. Joseph's Mike Draper and North Carroll's Casey Mann, Maryland finished with 5-3 record, with its second loss coming in the tournament coming in semifinals to Arizona, 8-7.

"We came within one extra inning game of reaching the finals," said Eastern Tech coach Ty Whittaker. "We lost, 8-7, to them but we were down, 6-1. We finished third in a pool of eight teams but we played great. No one expected anything from Team Maryland."

Whittaker, along with St. Michaels Brian Femi, North Hagerstown's Fred Kreiger and Riverdale Baptist's Tony and Ryan Terrill, coached the 20-man team in the six-day tournament at the University of Oklahoma.

Team Maryland began the tournament last Tuesday with a 14-1 win over Illinois as Centennial right-hander Joey Couch picked up the win behind Mann, Harry Slade of Loyola and Robbie Harris of Cardinal Gibbons. Mann hit his first grand slam of the tournament and drove in five runs, while Harris had two hits with three runs batted in and Slade went 3-for-3 with three runs scored.

On Tuesday afternoon Maryland beat Oklahoma, 9-6, as Collin Mills of Francis Scott Key picked up the win and the locals hit three home runs. Draper, Joey Jones of Eastern Tech and Jordan Gowe of St. Michaels each slammed home runs while Mark Smith of Westminster drove in two runs.

Maryland split its next two games, losing to Texas, 12-2, and coming back to beat Team Canada, 12-6. Maryland spotted Texas, which featured 11 Division I-bound players, a 10-0 first inning lead and received another home run from Draper and a strong relief stint from Nick Riley of Gaithersburg. Riley allowed just one run in four innings as Texas raised its record to 3-0.

Maryland bounced back with an impressive win over Canada as Matt Selmer of Riverdale Baptist pitched a complete game and received plenty of offensive support. Draper continued his torrid hitting by driving in two runs on a pair of hits. Mann went 4-for-4 with a triple, double and two RBIs. Slade scored three more runs added two hits while Gowe hit his second home run, a two-run shot.

The squad raised its record to 4-1 Thursday morning with a 12-4, five-inning win over Ohio as Mann and Draper again led the way offensively and they scored four runs in each of the first three innings.

Draper whacked a grand slam and drove in four more runs while Mann blasted a bases loaded triple for three more RBIs. Andrew Parker of Cardinal Gibbons was 2-for-2 with two RBIs while Slade scored two more runs and Justin Albright of Catoctin went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

Maryland improved to 5-1 Friday morning with a win over Georgia but came up just short in its bid to make the championship game, losing to Arizona by a run in eight innings.

Daper, Mann and catcher Parker made the all-tournament team. Draper hit an astounding .521 with four home runs, 13 runs scored and 10 RBIs. Mann hit .400 with two grand slams, 16 RBIs and two triples. Parker hit .416 with one home run, eight RBIs and seven runs scored while Harris hit .400 with one home run and eight RBIs.

Posted July 1, 2009