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Winning isn't everything

Federal wins valiantly in elimination

Federal wins valiantly in elimination

August 22, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - After hitting 45 home runs and compiling a .392 batting average through 14 games to reach the Little League World Series, the Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars must have wondered where their offense went in their first two World Series games.

After being no-hit by Indiana - a game Federal still managed to win 3-2 - and suffering through a 15-5 setback against Washington, Federal was hitting .184 (7-for-38) with just one home run in the World Series.

Then, in one dramatic three-hitter sequence, Federal reminded everyone just how it got here.

Ryan Byard, Andrew Yacyk and Zane Schreiber - who combined to hit 24 home runs through the Mid-Atlantic Regional - turned Lamade Stadium into a launching pad in the third inning, hitting back-to-back-to-back long balls to propel Federal past previously unbeaten Lake Charles, La., 6-4 on Tuesday night.

"It felt really great hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs and getting our swings back," said Yacyk, who hit Federal's only previous home run of the World Series against Washington. "Playing on the greatest field in Little League is just a great experience."

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"I'm very pleased, but even if we had gone 0-3, just being here is great," Federal manager Bill Abeles said. "But don't get me wrong, I had confidence that we could play against the best teams in the country and go toe-to-toe with them."

Federal, Louisiana and Washington all finished 2-1 in Pool A, but Louisiana and Washington advanced to the United States semifinals because of the runs allowed tiebreaker, which is calculated by taking the number of runs a team allows and dividing it by the number of innings the team played on defense.

Louisiana allowed seven runs in 17 innings (0.411 runs per inning) and Washington allowed 12 runs in 17 innings (0.706), while Federal allowed 21 runs in 17 innings (1.24).

Mark Grunberg got Federal off to a spectacular start with a diving catch of Gunner Leger's bloop to shallow right-center field for the game's first out, bringing fans to their feet.

"I thought (right fielder) Crosse (Barvinchack) would call for it, but he backed off, so I knew I had to go after it," Grunberg said.

Grunberg made another tough catch to end the top of the second inning, chasing down Colton Hunt's deep line drive. Later, Grunberg - hitting out of the No. 9 spot - led off the third inning with a single to right, setting the stage for Federal's big bashers.

"We just wanted to go out there and win our last game as Little Leaguers," Grunberg said. "We just wanted to have fun."

Byard - who had a tough first two games, going 1-for-6 with three strikeouts, and struck out in his first at-bat Tuesday - snapped out of it by sending an 0-0 pitch soaring over the wall to left center for a 2-0 lead. He rounded the bases to a rousing ovation.

"My first thought was it was going to hit the yellow line and I would be frustrated," Byard said. "But it went out. It was a good feeling."

Yacyk followed that up by working himself into a 3-1 count, then unloading on a fastball. Unlike his home run against Washington - an opposite-field line drive that carried just past the wall - this one was a no-doubt moonball to dead center.

At the crack of the bat, the crowd rose in unison and gasped as they watched the ball soar until it finally landed well up the hill. It was one of the longest home runs hit so far at the World Series.

Just as the murmurs started dying down in the bleachers, Zane Schreiber gave the fans something else to talk about, finishing the trifecta with a shot to left-center that carried just past the wall for a 4-0 lead.

Byard matched Grunberg in the Web Gem department with his own unbelievable catch in the fourth inning, racing from his shortstop spot into shallow left-center field and diving to rob Bryce Jordan of a hit.

"I jumped up in the dugout and I have a knot on my head because of it," Abeles said.

In the bottom of the fourth, Byard, Yacyk and Schreiber hit consecutive singles, with Byard and Yacyk scoring to make the score 6-0.

Yacyk pitched a stellar five innings before reaching the pitch count of 85 pitches, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out eight.

Josh Barron relieved Yacyk in the sixth and had to hold on as Louisiana mounted a charge. Trey Quinn reached base on Nick Karlen's error and Kennon Fontenot hit a bloop single to send Quinn to third, before Beau Jordan drove in Quinn with a groundout to short. Bryce Jordan followed with an RBI double to left, Nicholas Abshire was hit by a pitch and Peyton McLemore doubled to right to drive in two runs and cut the lead to 6-4.

But Barron struck out Grant Phillips on three pitches for the second out before getting Jake Lee to fly out to center to end the game and bring the curtain down on Federal's Little League World Series experience.

"I'm reliving my childhood a little bit, whether with the opening parade or beating a top-four team in the country," Abeles said. "Every moment has been special for me."

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