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Federal's debut taken by storm

August 16, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Thunderstorms may have kept the Federal 11-12 All-Stars from playing their first Little League World Series game Friday night, but it didn't keep them from an experience of a lifetime.

Before heavy rain washed out Federal's game against Jeffersonville, Ind. - it is rescheduled for 10 a.m. today at Volunteer Stadium and will be televised on ESPN2 - Federal took the field for infield practice and was greeted by a tremendous ovation from what appeared to be more than 1,000 fans packing the first-base bleachers.

"What was particularly impressive was when we went out for our infield and heard this huge roar," Federal manager Bill Abeles said. "That was the first time our kids really understood the degree to which Hagerstown is supporting them."

The day began with opening ceremonies, including the "Parade of Champions" when all 16 teams took the Volunteer Stadium field while carrying their regional championship banners. A smaller group of fans enthusiastically greeted the Federal All-Stars when they were announced.

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"It was really exciting seeing all the people in the stands, walking on the field and seeing all the people cheering for you," Federal player Andrew Yacyk said.

"It's hard to describe being on the field with eight other International teams and seven other U.S. teams," Abeles said. "It was quite a sight."

Yacyk - who was set to pitch the opening game - said he and his teammates were disappointed by the postponement.

"I'm just really frustrated. I really wanted to play today," Yacyk said. "That's all right, we just have to be ready to play tomorrow."

The rain was still coming down hard around 8:20 p.m., and with an 11 p.m. curfew for last pitch, Little League officials decided it would take too long to get the field ready for play and get the entire game in by curfew.

"The kids were really ready to go, and they're frustrated by this," Abeles said. "They don't understand the situation with the curfew."

The postponement does give Federal an opportunity it would not have otherwise. All of Federal's games had been scheduled for Lamade Stadium, but now it will get a chance to play in Volunteer Stadium.

"It will be a different look, and it will be fun," Abeles said. "The kids will be looking forward to it and they'll be wired."

Abeles said he will consider changing his pitching strategy, in part because Jeffersonville is likely to throw its ace, Drew Ellis, and in part because Federal's three pool play games will now take place over a four-day span instead of a five-day period.

"I wasn't sure who we would see from (Jeffersonville), but we're going to see their ace," Abeles said. "I may rethink my pitching rotation. I'm still probably going to throw Andrew, but I may decide to throw Zane (Schreiber) and change it up because of the shorter time between games."

Yacyk said he will be prepared if he gets the call again today.

"I just want to throw strikes, and I know they're going to hit the ball - I'm not going to throw the ball past anyone anymore at this level - so I need to throw strikes and trust my defense," Yacyk said.

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