(July 11, 2014) The Berlin Intermediate Little League all-star team won its fourth consecutive state title on Wednesday, topping Hughesville, 8-2.
To get there, the District 8 team first had to win a thrilling game in the opening round of the tournament. Down 11-5 on Monday, Berlin rallied to beat District 7’s Hughesville squad, 18-11. Both teams were undefeated prior to the game.
Hughesville struck first, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Berlin, the defending state champion, battled back in the bottom of the inning with four runs, including a two-run homer by Tristan McDonough and an inside-the-park home run by Billy Wheatley.
A two-run homer by Hughesville tied the game in the top half of the second inning, but Berlin battled back to take a one-run lead in the bottom half. Hughesville then exploded for six runs in the third inning, capped by a grand slam off Berlin relief pitcher Hayden Snelsire.
McDonough hit his second round-tripper in the bottom half of the third inning to make it 11-6, and Snelsire settled in during the fourth inning, striking out the side. Berlin also went quietly in the fourth.
Snelsire pitched his second-straight 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, and the Berlin bats finally came alive in the bottom half of the inning. After a fly ball out to start the frame, Ryan Duncan hit a double and McDonough drove him in on an error by the Hughesville second baseman. McDonough stole second and scored on a single by Wheatley, who advanced to second on the throw home. Wes Powell reached on an error, Matt Kinsey slammed a two-run double into the gap and pinch hitter Stephen Bise delivered a RBI single to tie the game at 11-11. Two walks, an error and singles by Snelsire and Powell made it 15-11.
Snelsire stayed in the game, allowing no runs and just two more hits in the final two innings while striking out three, giving him 10 strikeouts on the day. Snelsire also helped himself out on offense, knocking in three runs with a bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the sixth. He finished with five RBIs.
Assistant Coach Bill Wheatley was quick to praise Manager Cameron McDonough.
“He has been with these kids for going on five years – the vast majority of this team is still together from the Minor League team,” he said. “He took the kids aside by the left field corner before the game and gave them a talk.”
McDonough’s words would be prophetic.
“He said, ‘this is going to be like a boxing match where the old veteran is going to take on the up-and-coming young boxer. Early on, they’re going to hit us with some blows that are going to stun us and we’re going to have to take those blows and deal with them and then we’re going to hit them back – that’s where we’re going to win this match,’” Wheatley said. “‘They’re not used to being hit back so far in the tournament – they haven’t played anybody as good as us… And the game went just like that. He told it exactly as it was going to happen.”
Wheatley also had high praise for the team.
“This team never stops playing – they were never down,” he said. “They never worried and they knew they could get it back. They didn’t even drop their heads.”
Berlin captured the state title two days later, beating Hughesville again. Tristan McDonough racked up 16 strikeouts in the 8-2 victory.
Up next, the intermediate team travels to New York to play for the East Regional title on July 19 for a chance to appear in the Little League World Series in California. The squad will hold a fundraiser on Monday, July 14 at Pizza Tugo’s in West Ocean City. Donations can be dropped off during the fundraiser, mailed to P.O. Box 514 Berlin, Md. 21811 or submitted online at www.BerlinLittleLeague.org.
Berlin’s 9-10 Little League team also advanced to the state finals on Monday, beating Fruitland 7-2 thanks to a strong pitching performance by Evan Truitt.
The team will play its first game in the state tournament at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Williamsport, Md. against the winner of District 5. Coach Eric Snelsire has high hopes for his players.
“We’ve got a strong team this year and we’re really deep in pitching,” he said. “The double-elimination format really suits us well, and I feel like we have the talent top-to-bottom.”
The coach missed his son Hayden’s sterling performance at the Intermediate game on Monday, but was there to watch his youngest son shine against Fruitland.
“I used to coach that team with Cameron, but this year with my 10-year-old I recognized that they had a special group coming up too and I wanted to give him the opportunity to experience what Hayden did,” he said. “I felt like I could contribute as a manager having gone through that with him. It was tough not to be there, but everybody that I talked to said he did a great job.
“They both have a passion for the game, and we’re just trying to feed that passion as much as we can afford to and have an opportunity to,” Snelsire continued. “But they’ve certainly benefited from their own hard work.”