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Conococheague follows routine

July 23, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com

MAUGANSVILLE — The Maryland State 11-12 Little League Tournament is a big deal, but the Conococheague All-Stars are approaching it as routinely as possible.

“Going with the flow” is the unwritten motto of the District I champs, but that doesn’t mean the boundries can’t be expanded.

“Most of us were on the team that won states when we were on the 9-10 and the other two players have played on all-stars before,” said Conococheague player Levi Taylor. “We want to go out and win another banner. There are no jitters. We will just go and have practice and get ready.”

Conococheague had a first-round bye — by virtue of being the host district for the seven-team, double-elimination tournament — and had an extra day to prepare and think through their first game, which will be played today at noon against Northern Calvert at Maugansville Little League’s Jay W. Stouffer Field.

That’s when the excitement will begin, even though Conococheague approaches it as another day in paradise.

“We are trying to keep things as close to routine as possible,” said Conococheague manager Pat Taylor. “We have been tryng to do that with our practices ever since we won the district title.”

Conococheague was awarded one advantage just by being the host team of the tournament. The players will be able to stay in homes in Williamsport and sleep in their own beds. The other six teams will be jockeying in hotels.

The other six teams will be looking for ways to kill off down time to stay focused on the task at hand. Conococheague will be able to live its everyday life.

Conococheague had an hour-long practice after Saturday morning’s opening ceremony, just to stay in the flow of preparing to play. Taylor and coaches Chris Schlotterbeck and Dave Kyler spent the day watching Saturday’s three first-round games, just to scout the talent they will be facing. At the same time, it is another day for the players, including Levi Taylor, Jake Arnone and Isaac Schlotterbeck, to wait for their turn to play.

“They are buying in to what we have been telling them,” Taylor said. “We just want them to focus on the first inning of their first game on Sunday. We want them to take it inning by inning and game by game.”

Conococheague is trying to view each inning as a step to the state championship, which would give nine of the 11 players on the team a second title. This one, though, includes a trip to the Mid-Atlantic Region tournament in Bristol, Conn., with a chance to win the right to play in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

“I’d rather be playing,” Isaac Schlotterbeck said. “It’s not because of nerves. I just love playing. I don’t want to wait, but it’s good because we will be able to see everyone else. Our main focus is to win every inning.”

But the routine is starting to get too routine for Conococheague, which won the District 1 title on July 13.

“It’s good to know that we can watch and see what’s coming because it will give us a chance to go back and work on it,” Arnone said. “I can’t help having the game on my mind. We have had such a long time off. I just want to get back out there and play.”

Routine took a night off on Friday as Conococheague got together for a pizza party while watching the movie “The Perfect Game,” a true story of a team from Monterrey, Mexico, that became the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series.

“It was pretty inspirational,” Pat Taylor said. “(The three coaches) have playing experience. I was part of 1986 PONY League and the 1988 Colt League teams. Those are the finest memories of being young and winning. I hope some of this will stick with them.”

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