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Halfway finds its brightest star

July 15, 1999|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Halfway Little League All-Stars pitcher Nick Adenhart does not lack self-confidence.

"Warming up, I felt like I would have control of this game," he said.

Adenhart didn't just control National Little League. He dominated them.

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The proof - Adenhart faced 20 batters. He gave up two infield hits, one a bunt. He induced a groundout to first base.

Adenhart struck out the other 17.

Add in his two-run homer in the third inning, and Adenhart singlehandedly lifted Halfway to a 2-0 win at National in the winner's bracket semifinals of the 11-12-year-old District 1 tournament Thursday evening.

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"He's been an awesome player for four years," Halfway coach Les Martin said. "I've never seen a little league player like this kid."

Adenhart made it sound easy. Perhaps a little too easy.

"I watched them in batting practice," he said. "A lot of them didn't look like they were prime players or up to par."

Strong words. But Adenhart backed them up. He struck out the first four batters, then gave up an infield single to Jeremy McAfee in the second.

No problem. Adenhart struck out the next five.

He gave up a leadoff bunt single to Nathan Steelman in the fourth, but got Ryan Rau to ground to first. Adenhart then fanned the final eight for a two-hit shutout.

"We spent the last two days practicing, and the coaches threw hard," National manager Dick Sirbaugh said. "Obviously, we didn't throw as hard as this boy. That's terrible to say, that he can throw harder than us adults."

Overshadowed by Adenhart, National pitcher Brad Crouse fared well. He gave up five hits, struck out four and walked seven. His only blemish came after giving up a single to David Warrenfeltz in the third. Adenhart - who else? - skied the next pitch over the left field fence.

"It felt like I got jammed a little bit," Adenhart said. "I mean, it almost felt like a popup, and the ball just carried."

Adenhart's arm did the rest.

"When he's on the mound, we're real comfortable," Martin said. "Other leagues don't know how good he is until they face him, and then it's trouble."

But Martin knows his team has to play better.

"We need more players to step up and help (Adenhart)," Martin said. "He's just one player."

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