Youse’s Maryland Orioles of Baltimore didn’t advance to the championship game in last year’s AAABA Tournament.
When a franchise has 28 titles and six runner-up finishes, such a development qualifies as being newsworthy.
“Last year we finished third, we thought we played pretty well and finished probably higher than we thought we might,” said Baltimore manager Tim Norris. “Some of the young pitchers stepped up.
“We’ve won it so many times, maybe people think it’s easy. But it’s not easy.”
Livonia beat Baltimore 12-7 in the second round, and Cleveland eliminated Youse’s in the semifinals. Cleveland and New Brunswick advanced to the championship round, with the Matrix winning twice to give the New Jersey squad its first title.
This year, Baltimore is primed to find its way back to the top.
Youse’s went 25-19 in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
“We led the league in hitting. Hopefully we’ll get some clutch hits and cash in some guys,” Norris said. “Our pitching won’t be overpowering, but they’ll give us a chance to win as long as we play some defense and score some runs.”
Baltimore did suffer a significant loss late in the Ripken season when Mike Taylor, a pitcher who plays at Division I Marshall, was injured. Youse’s also lost catcher Garrett Russini, a Stetson product.
“The whole season went pretty good injury-wise and then the last week we lost two guys within five minutes,” Norris said.
The Orioles rotation is strong with right-handers Bobby Ruse (University of Maryland) and Brian Murphy (University of Hartford), and left-hander Conor LeBlanc (University of Massachusetts). Harvard’s Tanner Anderson and VCU’s Mike Carpenter also can start, while Towson’s Lee Lawler, Harvard’s Shaun Rubin, Wofford’s D.J. Park and Maryland’s Monte Wade are in the bullpen.
“We’ve got guys that throw strikes, keep the ball down and pitch to contact,” Norris said. “For the most part they hit the mid- to upper-80s.
“Murphy has been the most consistent. LeBlanc had five wins in the Ripken League. Ruse was in relief and was steady. Tanner Anderson will touch 92 miles an hour but he’s one of our shortstops, so I don’t know how much I’ll use him on the mound.”
Kevin Hockaday returns at third base and can play shortstop if Anderson pitches. He batted .375 in last year’s tournament.
First baseman Ryan Ripken, son of Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., is in his second AAABA Tournament. Ripken hit .292 with two triples and a homer last August in Johnstown. Ripken recently transferred from South Carolina to Indian River State.
“Ripken redshirted at South Carolina so it took him a while to get going,” Norris said. “He was hitting the ball well but then went into a little slump. The last few games he started hitting the ball well. He’s been batting cleanup the whole season.”
Jamie Boddicker and Kyle Convissar are at second base, and Chris Ayers and Brendan Butler are catchers.
Left fielder Brady Sheetz, center fielders Monte Wade and James Bunn, and right fielders Butler, Tex Williams and Brian Ruditys are outfielders.
“Our defense has been pretty steady all year,” Norris said.