Flying the flag
because we competed all year against each other. We make each other better.”
There is no question the parity within the conference isn’t what it used to be. Ten years ago any team really could beat any other any day. It’s a cliché, but it was the truth. Today there are clear haves and have-nots, unfortunately, but with that said this year marked the first time since 1982 that two SMAC teams won state championships in the same year. And it wasn’t very far from being even bigger.
Leonardtown won the 4A East Region, typically one of the toughest in the state, toppling Anne Arundel County’s Severna Park on the road. The Raiders then came within an eyelash of earning a spot in the 4A final before losing to Montgomery County’s Quince Orchard, the eventual 4A runner-up, in the state semifinals.
Then with McDonough in the 1A classification, which makes sure things remain a little busier for us, SMAC was very nearly represented in the state semifinals in all four classifications. The Rams, the 1A runners-up in 2015, lost to Harford County’s Patterson Mill in the 1A North Region final. Patterson Mill ultimately lost in the 1A championship game.
For La Plata, Monday afternoon’s 4-1 win over Williamsport of Washington County ended an eight-year journey trying to climb back to the top. In 2008, the Warriors rolled to the 3A title, the first in the program’s history. In the years between La Plata was always close, winning several regional championships and finishing as the 3A runner-up in 2011 and 2013. But on Monday, the team finally took the bigger trophy back home again.
“For us it’s the second state championship in school history and it’s my first,” said fifth-year La Plata head coach John Childers. “I told the boys they’re not the most talented team, but they play together and they fight and work hard and are coachable, and that means a lot more than having a ton of talent. For us, that’s what it means.
“For the conference, we play good baseball. People in Southern Maryland love baseball and they support baseball and we’re always going to be good. Whether it’s us or Huntingtown or Leonardtown or any of the schools that made the final four, the people care about baseball and it shows on the field.”
In 2006, Ian Schwalenberg was the winning pitcher in Huntingtown’s state semifinal win over Franklin. On Monday night he was the Hurricanes’ first-base coach when they finally got the state-championship monkey off their collective back. As a player then and a coach now, the conference has always had a place towards the top in the state in his opinion.
“It’s a quality, quality baseball conference,” he said on Monday night. “You have to prepare. We did a good job of preparing as a team, and I don’t think any opponent is easy, especially when it comes playoff time . ... Northern, an in-county rival, I believe they were somewhere around a .500 team in the regular season. They’re a good ballclub. When you come into regionals, you’re facing county and SMAC teams, it’s a legit conference. It’s one of the better conferences in the state. You always have to prepare game-by-game and not treat anyone any differently.”