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Pennsylvania standing in way of Federal's title quest

August 10, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

BRISTOL, Conn. - Devon Strafford Little League manager Glen MacGibbon knows how formidable an opponent Federal Little League will be Monday.

He also believes his team - the Pennsylvania state champion - poses just as formidable a threat to the Maryland champs.

"I think we match up quite well against them," MacGibbon said following Pennsylvania's 13-11 victory over New York champion Haverstraw in Friday's Mid-Atlantic Regional semifinals. "I think (Federal) probably believes they match up well against us."

Pennsylvania's offense has nearly been as prolific as Federal's.

Pennsylvania (16-3 overall, 3-2 in regionals) doesn't possess the kind of power throughout the lineup as Federal (13-0, 5-0). Andrew Born (five homers) is the only Pennsylvania player to homer more than once in the regional, compared to four Federal players who have at least three homers.

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But, Pennsylvania actually has hit for a higher average (.350) than Federal (.333), while scoring just five fewer runs (48-43).

"We're a pretty strong hitting team," MacGibbon said. "We're much more of a line-drive hitting team."

Born was the star of Friday's win against New York, hitting three home runs and driving in nine runs. Born leads Pennsylvania with a .474 average.

But he's far from being Pennsylvania's only potent hitter. Max Dolente is hitting .438, Stephen Born is at .429 and Thomas Richter, Austin Shirley, Riley Pritchett and Alec Gagne all are at .400.

"Our top four guys - Andrew, Stephen, Richter and Shirley - they've been leading us," MacGibbon said. "No. 1 through No. 9, we're pretty tough."

The real question for Pennsylvania is, who will pitch? MacGibbon kept that answer close to the vest, but he has to hope whoever he picks improves on the team's regional ERA of 7.56.

Federal has no such issue. It will send Andrew Yacyk to the mound, where the left-hander has yet to allow a hit in the tournament.

Yacyk no-hit Delaware champion Middletown with 11 strikeouts to open pool play, and added 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief with three strikeouts against New Jersey champion Bordentown on Wednesday.

Still, MacGibbon believes his team will be ready to battle Yacyk.

"We've had a couple close games against kids who have thrown so hard you can hardly see the ball," MacGibbon said. "But they've held their own."

Federal defeated Pennsylvania 7-4 in pool play last Monday, breaking a 4-4 tie with a three-run fourth inning - Zane Schreiber's two-run single was the big blow - and nailed down the win with four innings of scoreless relief from Adam Blenckstone and Josh Barron.

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