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Pony League team headed to World Series

August 09, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Danny Fowler could only wonder what real championship baseball must be like.

"I always wanted to know what it would be like to play in a youth league World Series," the 12-year-old said. "Now, I'll know."

Wonder turned into reality for Fowler and his Hagerstown Gray teammates on Sunday. Hagerstown won the Pony League East Zone Tournament at Funkhouser Park to advance to the 47th Pony League World Series next weekend in Washington, Pa.

The World Series experience will be new to Fowler, but it's become a tradition for the Hagerstown Pony League. It will be the eighth time Hagerstown will send a team to the World Series since 1952, when it won the championship.

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Besides host Washington, Pa., which gets an automatic berth in the tournament as the host, Hagerstown has won the most bids to the World Series. Hagerstown has played in the international field four times in the 1980s and now three times in the '90s, but this is its first trip since 1995.

"I'm speechless," said Hagerstown manager Rick Suder. "I told my wife before this all started that the group that went up there in 1995 was good, but to get back there this year, so quickly after that, it would be amazing. This is a big thrill."

Hagerstown did all the talking for Suder with its offense on Sunday against pitching-depleted Waynesboro, Pa. Waynesboro lost in the second round of the double-elimination tournament and was forced to play one more game than Hagerstown to reach the final. It managed to beat the Gray 13-3 on Saturday to force Sunday's finale.

Fowler did his part to send Hagerstown back to the World Series with four hits in four at-bats, including two home runs and six RBIs. Hagerstown hit four home runs in all, including three in a nine-run fifth inning to end the game.

"We're playing real well," Fowler said. "Our pitching was real good and we did our jobs and hit behind it."

The reward is the chance to play for a world championship.

The World Series draws teams from four regions of the United States, Mexico and the Asian-Pacific zone areas along with Washington, Pa., and a second team from that area. The eight teams will be divided into two four-team groups for three games of round-robin play. The top team from each group advances to the championship game.

It should be enough action to let Fowler know what a youth World Series is all about.

"It's a dream come true," he said.

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