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Mourning Glory
CHRIS BALLARD
October 22, 2012
Deep in the heart of Maryland, not far from Baltimore and Washington, there was another story of baseball magic, this one mixed with tragedy—two deaths, three years apart—that ended with the realization of a seemingly impossible dream
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October 22, 2012

Mourning Glory

Deep in the heart of Maryland, not far from Baltimore and Washington, there was another story of baseball magic, this one mixed with tragedy—two deaths, three years apart—that ended with the realization of a seemingly impossible dream

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"If I wanted someone to warm up," Warrenfeltz said, "there would be someone down in the pen." After all the team had been through, there was no way the coach was walking out to the mound to remove Byers, and even if he did, there was no way Byers was giving up the ball.

The next batter bunted and so did the next. There were now runners on first and third with one out. Warrenfeltz grimaced. He knew what was coming next, but it didn't matter: Patuxent laid down a perfect squeeze, the kind Warrenfeltz's dad always talked about. Tyler's only play was at first, and he made it. Now the game was tied. And still, Warrenfeltz left Tyler in. He struck out the next batter swinging.

In the bottom of the seventh the Wildcats went down in order. In the stands the Williamsport fans went silent. Stephanie Warrenfeltz felt so anxious that she thought she might throw up. Meanwhile, in the dugout, Warrenfeltz worried about Tyler. The kid was a gamer, but he hadn't pitched more than two innings in a row since hurting his ankle.

Somehow Tyler made it through the eighth and the top of the ninth, but with each pitch he looked more tired. Time was running out. Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, Byers poked one to left for a single. Immediately Warrenfeltz signaled down the bench to Tyler Martin, a junior whom everyone called Brett Gardner on account of his speed. Martin rarely hit or played the field, but he might have been the best pinch runner in Washington County. On the second pitch he took off—"like he had jets on his heels," remembers Stottlemyer—and swiped second. The next batter, Ryan Butts, sent a perfect bunt down the first base line to get Martin to third with one out.

So here it was, the opportunity the Wildcats had waited for. An inning earlier Williamsport had stranded a runner at third, and Stottlemyer had told Warrenfeltz, "Next time that happens, we have to go out guns blazing." Now Warrenfeltz looked at Stottlemyer and nodded: time for the squeeze.

Nick Williams, a fine bunter, came to the plate, but Patuxent intentionally walked him. The next batter, Riley Arnone, was the only Wildcat who'd successfully laid down a squeeze that season. Patuxent walked him too, loading the bases with one out. Looking back, Warrenfeltz wonders if Patuxent had a scouting report because walking to the plate was Brandon Toloso, who was 0 for the playoffs on bunts, whom Warrenfeltz had put through an extra 10 minutes of bunting practice a day earlier, with decidedly mixed results.

There are moments that reveal a lot about a coach. How much does he believe in his philosophy? Does he have the guts to make the big call? Brandon stepped into the box and looked at Warrenfeltz, who was standing on the field as third base coach. Warrenfeltz went to his arm. In the dugout, Lewis turned to Colby Byers. The two had the same reaction. "Oh, Jesus!" whispered Lewis.

Byers stared back at his coach, eyes wide. "The sign's on!" Byers said, disbelieving. "The sign's on!"

Across the diamond Patuxent prepared for the possibility. "Watch the squeeze!" the third baseman shouted. The first baseman crept in. The pitcher looked toward third, where Tyler Martin was inching down the line, and went into his motion.

With that, Tyler broke for home. Brandon needed to remember everything he'd been taught: Square up early, get the bat high and slap the ball down. On the bench Zach couldn't breathe. They needed this. The town needed this. Just get down one freaking bunt, Brandon.

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