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Federal reaches state Little League title game

August 07, 2008

EASTON, Md. - The Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars are one win away from being crowned Maryland state champions.

Federal took a 6-0 lead through three innings against Easton on Tuesday, then had to hold on as Easton mounted a sixth-inning rally that came up just short as Federal advanced to the championship round of the Maryland State Tournament with a 6-4 victory in the winners' bracket final.

"Our goal was to try to stay in the winners' bracket, it takes some pressure off our pitching staff," Federal manager Bill Abeles said. "This is high stakes and we knew we were up against a tough Easton team. My guess is we're going to see them again."

Federal will face the winner of today's losers' bracket final between Easton and Hughesville on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. If Federal loses, a final game would be played Friday at 5:30.

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"They've not gotten ahead of themselves," Abeles said of his team. "We've preached from the beginning of practice to take it one at-bat and one inning at a time. It's worked for us and we'll stick with it and hope it works out Thursday."

Andrew Yacyk pitched five-plus innings, allowing one run - on Tayvon Blake's solo home run leading off the sixth - on three hits and four walks while striking out 10 before reaching the pitch count of 85 pitches.

"He has great pace and he comes across as a southpaw, which is a different angle," Abeles said. "He has superb off-speed pitches to keep them off-balance, he's really honed that over the last three years, and talent has something to do with it as well."

Federal needed three relievers to fight through the sixth, during which Easton turned what looked like a blowout Federal victory into a real nailbiter.

Shyeim Washington's three-run home run made it 6-4 with no outs in the sixth, and Easton put two more runners on with a walk and a single. But Josh Barron - the last of Federal's three relievers in the inning - came in with one out and got a strikeout and a popout to Yacyk at first to end the game.

"All the relievers did exactly what I asked them to. I was calling the pitches and they were hitting the spots," Abeles said. "I have to hand it to Easton, they were hitting well and got the best of us in that inning. We needed Barron to throw strikes and he did."

Federal took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Yacyk doubled, Zane Schreiber walked and both runners moved up a base when Dalton Jobe hit a long fly ball that was caught at the fence. Crosse Barvinchack followed with a two-run double to the fence.

The lead grew to 5-0 in the second on RBI doubles by Mark Grunberg and Ryan Byard. Byard later scored on a steal of home when Adam Blenckstone - who was pinch running for Schreiber, who walked - intentionally got caught in a rundown between first and second.

"We play each game trying to win each inning," Abeles said. "That was our focus from the get-go, to put some pressure on them early. We were trying to keep pressure on them, but they're too solid a ballclub to allow that to happen and started to come back."

In the third, Josh Moats walked, moved to second on Barron's sacrifice bunt, took third on Nick Karlen's bunt single and scored on a wild pitch.

"We're very solid with the bats, but every so often when we need to play small ball, we'll play small ball and use solid base running," Abeles said.

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