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New names, new faces, same result for Federal

July 09, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

The individuals have changed but the team identity has not.

Federal Little League has ruled District 1 in the 11-12 tournament the past two years, and on Thursday successfully opened its title defense with a 6-0 victory over Hancock.

"We've worked hard with the kids to minimize the pressure, keeping them focused on the job," said Federal manager Dan Dopson. "They were watching the kids last year and they know what happened."

It's an entirely new cast of characters from last season, which concluded with the trip to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

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Cole Conrad went the distance with a 66-pitch, four-hit shutout. He kept Hancock threats in the first, fourth and sixth innings at bay due to a changeup, strikeout pitch and a good defensive effort.

"(Cole) wiggled out of trouble and he thanked the defense for making the plays it did," said Dopson, who coached Conrad on the Rotary team during the regular season. "He studies the game and works hard. He's a Maddux-like pitcher."

Hancock played as the home team at the Federal field and promptly left leadoff batter Jordan Tosten stranded at third with none out.

Down 4-0 in the fourth, Tristan Douglas and Connor Litton each singled to open the inning, but Conrad induced a fielder's choice and then struck out a pair to end the threat.

In the sixth, with a 6-0 deficit and one last shot, Hancock reached base on a Federal error and got a double by Douglas, before Conrad again slammed the door with an infield grounder and two strikeouts, giving him eight for the game.

"It's a big weight lifted off our shoulders," said Dopson. "We get to wait until Monday to play. From the first day we had this team, we took it one day at a time to get to this point."

Federal will host Conococheague on Monday at 6 p.m.

Litton, Hancock's starting pitcher, squirmed out of trouble in the top of the second, stranding Federal runners at first and second with none out before running into trouble in the third.

Federal put together four runs with three hits and a pair of walks. Conrad led off with a single and was forced at second on Ryan Brown's fielder's choice. After Preston Carey walked, Nick Blake drove in Brown with the first run and Carey never stopped running as he scored on a relay throw wide of home plate for a 2-0 lead. Justin Smith singled to center to score Blake, moved to second on a walk and scored on successive wild pitches.

Litton settled down and retired Federal in order over the next two innings before Federal scored two in the sixth on a two-run single by Andrew Fiery.

"(Litton) is a real competitor," said Hancock manager Dennis Douglas. "We just didn't hit the ball well at all. Some nights you hit good, some nights you struggle. That boy pitched a good game and his junk kept us off balance."

Hancock, which had beaten Clear Spring 7-4 on Wednesday on the strength of four home runs, falls into the losers' bracket of the double-elimination tournament and will play at Halfway tonight.

"That's the way baseball is," said Douglas. "We can bounce back ... we're still playing."

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