Hagerstown's Federal Little League All-Stars advance to championship

August 08, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

BRISTOL, CONN. -- The dream of a Little League World Series appearance is one victory away for Federal Little League.

Federal's 11-12 All-Stars hit five home runs Friday and defeated New Jersey champion Bordentown, 10-0, in 3 1/2 innings in the Mid-Atlantic Regional semifinals at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Leadership Training Center.

Federal, the Maryland state champion, will face Pennsylvania champion Devon Strafford -- a 13-11 winner over New York champion Haverstraw -- in the regional championship game Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. The winner advances to the Little League World Series, beginning Aug. 15 in Williamsport, Pa.

"This was a mini-goal, to get to Monday, and we have another one to get to the World Series," Federal manager Bill Abeles Jr. said. "We'll try to ignore the glamour and play our hardest. What will be, will be."


Federal defeated Devon Strafford, 7-4, in pool play Monday.

It's been about a month since Federal opened play in the Maryland District 1 Tournament. Since then, Federal has earned its second straight district title, traveled to Easton, Md., to win its first state title, and made the 350-mile trip to regionals, where it has won five straight to run its overall record to 13-0.

Federal is the first team from Washington County to reach the regional tournament since American Little League in 1990. With a win Monday, it would be the first team from the county to reach the Little League World Series since National Little League, which made it in 1950 and 1968.

"It's been wonderful and nerve-wracking," said Kelly Hornbecker, the wife of Federal coach Doug Hornbecker and the mother of Brady Hornbecker. "It's an experience I and the boys will never forget. I haven't been home, but I understand we're the talk of the town. It's awesome to get this far and be the first team from the county to get here in 18 years."

Many parents and relatives of the players are taking time off work and reaching deep into their pockets to go on the road and follow the team through the journey. Take Trish and Joe Kinter, the parents of Ryan Kinter, for instance.

"It's just been an absolute thrill of a lifetime," Trish Kinter said. "Plans are being rearranged, money is being spent hand over fist, and I wouldn't change it for the world."

"We used to go on vacation, and we'd come back from the beach and watch the Little League World Series on TV. Now we're taking our vacation to try to go to the Little League World Series," Joe Kinter said. "All the time spent in the backyard playing catch ... it's an amazing journey right now."

Five Federal players were part of last year's team that reached the state tournament, and many of the players have been playing together for several years. The familiarity is obvious on and off the field.

"The team aunt, Rita (Strahowski), told us that when our boys step on the field, she doesn't see 12 heartbeats, she sees one," said Kendra Byard, the mother of Ryan Byard.

"It's just been really exciting to watch these boys play together since they were 6 years old, and to see them have this much success in their last year of Little League," said Todd Moats, the father of Josh Moats.

Regardless of what happens Monday, the Federal All-Stars already have given themselves and many others memories that will last forever.

"The thing I'm impressed with the most is what they're learning," said Chookie Karlen, the mother of Nick Karlen. "They're learning to work as a team, and they're seeing that with hard work and teamwork, they can achieve anything, whether in baseball or in life."

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