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Runnin' down a dream

Federal beats Pennsylvania, earns berth in region semis

Federal beats Pennsylvania, earns berth in region semis

August 06, 2008|By JOHNNY J. BURNHAM / The Bristol Press

BRISTOL, Conn. -- The Hagerstown Federal Little League All-Stars passed a huge test Monday morning and, in doing so, became the first team to punch a ticket into the Mid-Atlantic Regional semifinal field.

Federal used two more home runs -- giving it 11 in three regional games -- to get past a very good team in Pennsylvania state champion Devon Strafford Little League, 7-4.

"We knew that this was going to be a tough game heading in," manager Bill Abeles said. "I just told the kids that this was one of those type of grind-it-out wins and we knew that we were going to have some of these type games. We were aware that you can't throw 11 runs on the board every time."

While it may not have posted a double-digit run total for the first time in its stay in Bristol, the Federal offense still made some noise early.

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Federal quickly jumped on top by scoring two runs with two outs in the top of the first inning.

After Pennsylvania starter Kyle Stefanic retired Ryan Byard and Andrew Yacyk -- the dangerous 1-2 punch at the top of the Federal lineup -- Zane Schreiber worked a walk, giving cleanup hitter Dalton Jobe a chance to do some damage.

For the second consecutive day, he went deep with a two-strike count.

"With two strikes, I get a little pickier at the plate with the pitch I swing at," Jobe said of his two-strike success, adding that it was important to get the team off to a good start. "It felt good to give our pitcher some room."

That room got a little tighter in the bottom of the first as Pennsylvania's Andrew Born cut the lead in half with a solo shot off Byard.

Federal's threat to add to its lead in the second ultimately fell short, but Schreiber wasn't about to let another opportunity slip away in the third.

With Yacyk standing on first, Schreiber and Stefanic were tangled in a long battle. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Schreiber won the fight, sending a ball to center field that simply wasn't coming back.

"I knew it was gone," he said of his two-run homer that gave Federal a 4-1 lead.

Pennsylvania responded in its half of the frame with a three-run, four-hit inning to tie the game at 4. In relief of Byard, Andrew Blenckstone stranded the go-ahead run just 60 feet away as he got pinch hitter Colin Murphy to fly out to left to retire the side and keep the game in a deadlock.

Blenckstone worked three innings to pick up the win.

The Maryland champs went ahead for good in the fourth on a Josh Barron single, a Brady Hornbecker free pass, an RBI double from Yacyk and a two-out, two-run base knock from Schreiber.

The combination of Blenckstone and Barron made sure the lead held up, retiring the last nine Pennsylvania hitters in order.

While the entire team is excited about clinching a berth into the semifinals, Jobe, Schreiber and Abeles all agreed a well-deserved day off and a little rest and relaxation is certainly something they'll welcome with open arms.

Federal has Tuesday off before taking on Bordentown, N.J. in a game to be televised on MSG Wednesday at 2 p.m.

To Abeles, there's still much work to be done to reach the team's ultimate goal: A trip to Williamsport, Pa. and the Little League World Series.

"We still have a long way to go so we're going to give the kids some time off to relax and enjoy themselves," he said. "We'll come back ready to go on TV Wednesday. I'm pretty excited about that."

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