Grand theft, baseball

Federal guilty of 'stealing' series win without benefit of a hit

Federal guilty of 'stealing' series win without benefit of a hit

August 18, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- After it was all said and done following Saturday morning's Little League World Series pool play game between Mid-Atlantic champion Hagerstown Federal and Great Lakes champion Jeffersonville, Ind., Federal manager Bill Abeles' four words said it best.

"We stole a game."

Jeffersonville ace Drew Ellis pitched a no-hitter with 11 strikeouts, but Federal created three runs -- one with the help of a first-inning error and the other two on a hit batter, walk and three wild pitches in the fifth inning -- for an improbable 3-2 victory in Pool A at Volunteer Stadium.

"It's nice to get that 'W' but we know we didn't put the ball in play too many times today at all," Abeles said. "We'll take manufacturing the win any time. ... I think the baseball gods have been with us a little bit."


Trailing 2-1 with one out in the bottom of the fifth, Ellis was working on four straight strikeouts and was at only 60 pitches (the pitch limit is 85). Federal appeared to be in trouble.

But Ellis hit Nick Karlen with a 3-2 pitch and walked Brady Hornbecker on four pitches before the three wild pitches -- a fastball low and outside, a curveball in the dirt, and a high fastball -- past catcher Josh Burke.

Karlen and pinch runner Mark Grunberg each moved up a base on the first one. Karlen scored and Grunberg took third on the second wild pitch, and Grunberg raced home with the winning run as the third errant pitch bounced up the backstop, allowing the large contingent of Federal fans to erupt.

"They've been really resilient all summer. They really do not quit, and they didn't quit going into the tail end of that game," Abeles said. "We knew we had six outs to try and put the ball in play, and we stole a game."

"(Drew) was getting close to his pitch limit and was probably getting a little tired," Jeffersonville manager Derek Ellis said. "He did an awesome job to that point, give up no hits and lose a ballgame ... it stings a little bit.

"Josh had a little trouble handling some of the fastballs, but what are you going to do? Hats off to Maryland for hanging in there."

Federal reliever Josh Barron gave up Chandler Dale's leadoff double to the right-field gap to start the sixth inning. Hayden Robb laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Dale to third, and would have reached first himself had Barron not made a spectacular throw from his backside after slipping while fielding the bunt.

Barron struck out Ben Shahroudi on a curve for the second out, but needed a pair of key defensive plays to get the final out.

Barron's first pitch to Burke was a curve that wound up outside and in the dirt. Dalton Jobe moved over in time to successfully block the ball and keep it in front, keeping Dale at third.

"That was a game-saver," Abeles said.

On a 1-1 pitch, Burke hit a grounder to Schreiber at third. He calmly scooped up the ball and made a soft toss to first, but it was wide right, leaving Yacyk with a decision to make at first.

"I saw him throw the ball and saw it going wide," Yacyk said. "I figured I wasn't going to be able to have my foot on the bag and catch the ball, so I came off the bag and tried to dive back and get the runner or the bag, and I got the bag before he got there."

Yacyk's dive to the bag with the ball in his glove barely beat Burke, but it was enough to finish off the victory and give Barron the win with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.

"He's been a very solid closer for us," Abeles said. "He has a nice little curveball and hits his spots."

Federal took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Zane Schreiber walked on four pitches before Jobe hit a towering fly to right center with two outs that Jeffersonville center fielder Austin Hines and right fielder Christopher Wenger each misplayed. The ball dropped in as Schreiber raced around from first to score as Hines was charged with an error.

"I thought we were a little flat to start the game," Derek Ellis said. "Giving up the one run in the first inning on a routine fly ball to center field and we had a miscommunication between the right fielder and the center fielder, that started us off on a bad foot and a bad note."

But Drew Ellis was unhittable. Facing a Federal team that scored 157 runs and hit 45 home runs in 14 games to get to the Little League World Series, Ellis' blazing fastball and hard, biting curve made Federal look punchless as it went 0-for-16.

"His fastball is really hard. It's hard to catch up to and his curveball drops straight into the ground," said Yacyk, who struck out three times. "It was hard to pick up the spin until it was in the dirt and I'd already swung. He's a really good pitcher."

"What a great effort by (Ellis)," Abeles said. "He had us on our toes and that curveball of his was superb. He kept us at bay."

Yacyk came close to matching Ellis with a very good outing from the Federal left-hander. He allowed two hits and three walks while striking out 10 in 4 2/3 innings.

The only mistakes Yacyk made came in the third inning on Hines' solo home run to right that tied the game and in the fourth when a 3-1 pitch to Shahroudi was grounded hard through the hole at short, driving in Dale for a 2-1 Jeffersonville lead.

A large group of Federal fans -- many clad in orange Mid-Atlantic champion T-shirts -- packed the first-base stands and helped provide a festive atmosphere at Volunteer Stadium. Fans performed the wave three times just before the start of the game and gave Federal a rousing ovation as it took the field for the first inning.

"A lot of people from Hagerstown came down to see us play," Grunberg said. "They had our backs out there and it's nice to know they came out to support us."

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