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Conococheague knocks Halfway down

June 30, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

WILLIAMSPORT -- Tuesday's Maryland District 1 9-10 Tournament winners' bracket semifinal between host Conococheague Little League and Halfway Little League shaped up like two intimidating heavyweights going nose to nose.

Conococheague outscored its first two opponents by a combined 35-2, while Halfway dismissed its two foes by a combined 32-5.

Both teams wanted to land a haymaker early, but only one team did it -- Conococheague.

Isaac Schlotterbeck struck out the side in the top of the first inning, and Conococheague went to work in the bottom half, as its first four hitters reached base and scored to pave the way to a 7-2 victory.

"These kids put 100 percent out there every night," Conococheague manager Mick Byers said. "The desire is there to win. ... It's great to get a win against anybody. Halfway is a good team, so that makes it even better."

Conococheague will host Hancock on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the winners' bracket final. Halfway will host Federal today at 6 p.m. in a losers' bracket game.

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Facing Halfway starter Bryce Ruppenthal, Robert Carr led off the bottom of the first with an infield single to short before Levi Taylor reached base on an infield error. Jake Arnone ripped an RBI single to center and Schlotterbeck laced a triple to the fence in right for a 3-0 lead. Schlotterbeck scored on an infield error to make it 4-0.

"That's what started everything for us, to get up early and get them making mistakes," Byers said.

Conococheague put the game away with a three-run fourth, with the top of the order striking again. Carr singled to center, Taylor hit an RBI double down the left-field line and Arnone singled to left to score Taylor. Arnone took second on the throw home and third on an error, and scored on Schlotterbeck's RBI groundout to second.

"Clutch hits was what won this ballgame," Byers said. "It was a close game and those hits won it."

Ryan Downs was the only player to get a hit for Halfway, going 3-for-3 with two singles and a monstrous home run over the bleachers in left, his fifth homer in three tournament games.

"He's a beast," Halfway manager Trey Keller said.

Schlotterbeck struck out nine and walked four in four-plus innings before reaching the pitch count of 75. Arnone allowed only Downs' home run and struck out two in two innings.

"They're my two aces," Byers said. "They threw the ball exactly where I wanted them to on those big guys. They're great hitters and they had to keep the ball away from them."

"We just lost focus," Keller said. "When we got down, we didn't know how to respond. Our first two games, we got up big and didn't know what it's like to play from behind. For us, getting a fast start is huge. It's key. We have to come out quick, jump on teams quick, and we didn't do that tonight."

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