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Halfway has an angel in outfield

District 1 champs draw inspiration from Adenhart's life

July 17, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Halfway's Ryan Downes, left, and Zach Andrews touch the Nick Adenhart sign in center field Thursday after beating Conococheague to win the Maryland District 1 11-12 Little League Tournament title.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HALFWAY -- The Halfway 11-12 All-Stars showed all the guts and determination they needed to steal the Maryland District 1 crown from Conococheague, the defending Maryland state champion, on Thursday.

After losing to Valley on July 9, Halfway manager Les Martin spent the next week retooling the mindset of his team. It took a little Knute Rockne for motivation and some Mother Teresa for comfort.

And he wrapped it up with some divine intervention.

"I didn't expect this after we lost," Martin said after Halfway beat Conococheague 15-3 to win the league's fourth district title. "They got down so far, but we started talking to them and stuff. When we started, I said we had an angel in the outfield."

That angel -- and Angel -- was the late Nick Adenhart, the Williamsport High School graduate who started his climb to the majors by playing at Halfway. Adenhart died in a three-car accident with an alleged drunk driver last year in Fullerton, Calif., shortly after completing his best-ever pitching performance in his 2009 debut with the Los Angeles Angels.

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Halfway now plays at the Nicholas James Adenhart Memorial Field. It was Halfway's first district title since winning back-to-back crowns in 1998-99 with Adenhart pitching.

Martin has first-hand knowledge of those times since he coached the 1999 team.

"I had Nick on the team the last year we won it," Martin said. "We started telling them about the things that Nick did, and they listened. Every kid wants to get where Nick was."

Halfway took some of the lessons and legend of Adenhart to heart.

After losing to Valley, Halfway outscored its opponents 74-24 in the five games since falling into the losers' bracket. The bats came alive while Martin juggled the pitching to navigate the riggers of playing one loss from elimination.

Halfway went to Conococheague on Wednesday and knocked off the winners' bracket champs 10-4 to force Thursday's decisive game. Matt Malphurs led the way with two home runs while pitching -- ala Adenhart -- a no-hitter for 4 2/3 innings.

On Thursday, it was Tanner Canfield who stood center on Adenhart's old stage, pitching a four-inning complete game and allowing two earned runs. He added two hits and three RBIs to join the crowd led by Zach Andrews, who hit a leadoff home run, and Billy Miller, who capped an eight-run first inning with a grand slam.

"I just went out there with the eye of the tiger," Canfield said. "It felt really good to get the eight runs. I knew the team was behind me."

Andrews' opposite-field homer paved the way for Halfway.

"(The homer) was a big spark that went to the eight runs," Andrews said. "I went back and told everyone to hit the ball hard. It doesn't matter if you hit it 270 feet, just hit the ball hard. This is great because we have four kids who are 12 years old on the team and to go and win the district for them is great."

When it was over, Halfway took its spoils -- the District 1 championship banner -- and took a victory lap around the field. Halfway along the way, the Halfway players stopped to touch the banner of Adenhart's likeness in center field, almost to say thanks for watching over them.

"I was touched when they did that," said Martin.

It's a good bet Adenhart would have been touched by the effort of this generation of Halfway 11-12 All-Stars.

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