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Federal wins Maryland State Tournament title

July 25, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

EASTON, MD. -- Dozens of supporters of Federal Little League made the 120-mile trip Friday to North Easton Sports Complex to watch the 11-12 All-Stars win Washington County's first Maryland State Tournament title in 18 years.

"I think we have a reputation for all wearing red, traveling in groups and supporting all levels of play," Federal All-Stars manager Bill Abeles said. "Everyone from the league president (Mike Conrad) to the league's other coaches made a two-hour trip down here on a Friday to support us, and that means a lot."

Federal powered to a 9-1 victory over Easton in the championship game, hitting four home runs.

Federal fans could be found all along the fence on the first-base side and beyond right field. As the lead grew, so did their cheers, making for a memorable evening for all.

"It's tremendous," Abeles said. "We have felt the Hagerstown support all week. Even those who are not here, we've gotten lots of phone calls from well-wishers."

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Federal is the first team from Washington County to win an 11-12 state title since American did it in 1990.

National is the only team from the county to advance to the Little League World Series, reaching the pinnacle of youth baseball in 1968. Federal will begin play Thursday in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn. The winner will advance to the World Series.

"This is an incredibly proud moment for our league," Conrad said. "I'm proud of the players and what they've accomplished. I'm happy to be here to support them. It's a special opportunity for them, and they've worked hard to earn the opportunity."

Federal won its first Maryland District 1 Tournament last year and made it to the losers' bracket final of the state tournament. Its only two losses last year came against West Salisbury, which made it to the World Series.

"It took us 50 years to win the district," said Dave Grams, who has been a league president, coach and umpire at Federal for 24 years. "Not many kids get the chance to play in the state tournament."

"This group of kids have been playing together since they were 6 and 7," said Ed Schreiber, the father of Federal player Zane Schreiber. "The core group, five of them played on last year's team. As a parent of one of them, it's been really neat seeing them come through the ranks and reach this point."

Federal's supporters will have a bit farther to go to support the team in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, as the team attempts to achieve even more history.

"We've set minigoals and have tried to reward ourselves this whole run," Abeles said. "We wanted to repeat as district champions, which we did. We wanted to go a step further here and win the state championship. Now, we'll start preparing for Bristol, keep taking little steps and see where it takes us."

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