Conococheague wins 9-10 title

July 23, 2009|By DAN KAUFFMAN

WILLARDS, Md. -- Conococheague Little League won its second Maryland State 9-10 Tournament championship in three years with its trademark -- offense, and lots of it.

Trailing 9-5 entering the bottom of the fourth inning in the championship game against East Frederick, Conococheague scored 14 runs on 17 hits in the final two innings -- including three home runs -- to take the title with a 19-9 victory in five innings at Willards Little League.

Conococheague won all eight games it played this postseason -- four in the District I Tournament and four at the state tournament -- by a combined 137-19.

"After the first practice with the kids before the first game of the district tournament, I knew they were going to hit the ball well," Conococheague manager Mick Byers said. "There's great talent going through (the league) and a lot of good teaching going on."


Conococheague's 9-10 state title could just be the beginning. Its 11-12 All-Stars begin play in the state tournament Saturday in Waldorf.

"I have a son on the 11-12 team," Byers said. "It will be a little easier sitting in the stands watching, and hopefully they come home with the same (state championship) banner."

Conococheague defeated East Frederick 24-1 on Tuesday in the winners' bracket final. Thursday's championship game was not nearly as one-sided -- at least for a while.

East Frederick took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Sean Jodrie's RBI single to center off Conococheague starter Jake Arnone.

Conococheague took a 2-1 lead in the bottom half. With one out, Levi Taylor walked, Arnone hit a seeing-eye single to right to start his 5-for-5 day at the plate, Taylor scored on a wild pitch and Arnone scored on Caden Keplinger's infield single.

East Frederick tied the game in the third on Tim Kuhens' single to left and Jodrie's RBI double to right.

Conococheague came right back with three runs in the bottom half for a 5-2 lead. Taylor and Arnone led off with singles, Taylor scored on an error and Isaac Schlotterbeck hit an RBI double. Mark Koontz walked and later scored on another error.

Down but not out, East Frederick exploded for seven runs in the fourth to take a 9-5 lead, doing most of the damage after Arnone hit the 75-pitch limit and had to be replaced by Keplinger.

East Frederick had five hits in the inning, the biggest being Travis Craney's two-out, two-run bloop single to center that Arnone almost caught while sliding. Dylan Kopp added a two-run single.

Then it was Conococheague's turn to enjoy a big inning, scoring 10 runs on 11 hits in the bottom of the fourth.

"There was no lack of confidence in us coming back," Byers said. "We just had to see if the kids could overcome some adversity."

Conococheague's first seven hitters produced hits in the inning.

Taylor started it with a double to right and Arnone, Schlotterbeck, Hunter Ostrum and Keplinger each singled to cut the lead to 9-8. That brought up Gage Kyler with two men on, and he hit a 2-1 pitch just over the fence in center for an 11-9 lead.

"It was right there where I like it," Kyler said. "Once I hit it, I didn't know if it was gone, but I heard the crowd react. Everyone just started getting pumped up. We all had to start hitting the ball."

Trevor Knode, Robert Carr, Taylor and Arnone kept the inning going with singles to increase the lead to 13-9, before Schlotterbeck hit a drive to left a good 40 feet past the fence for a 15-9 edge. It was Schlotterbeck's third home run of the state tournament and his sixth in eight All-Star games.

"We knew we could hit the ball well enough to come back," Schlotterbeck said. "We didn't know we'd 10-run them, though."

That happened in the bottom of the fifth, after Keplinger regrouped to retire East Frederick in order on seven pitches in the top half.

"I brought him in in a tough situation and he had a rough inning," Byers said. "Once he got through it and we took the lead again, he was able to regain his composure and he was big for us."

Keplinger and Kyler opened the bottom of the fifth with singles. With one out, Zack Carpenter launched a three-run home run down the left-field line for an 18-9 lead.

"It's my second one, I had one at districts," said Carpenter, Conococheague's No. 9-hitter. "I knew it was gone."

"There's no holes in my team," Byers said. "Everybody does their job."

Carr and Taylor followed with singles before Arnone ended the game with the last of his five hits, a double that scored Carr to enact the 10-run rule.

"I knew I could end it, but I wasn't sure if I was going to," Arnone said. "We're not usually behind, but when we are, we know we can come back, and that's what we did."

As dominant as Conococheague's run for the 9-10 state title was this year, one has to wonder about the potential of the team over the next two years in the 11-12 tournament.

"If these kids stay together and work as hard as they did the last three weeks, they have a big future ahead of them," Byers said.

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