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Conococheague takes long road, but reaches championship round

July 27, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Conococheague's Robert Carr, left, and Jake Arnone celebrate the final out of the game in their 8-4 victory over Northern Calvert on Wednesday in the Maryland State 11-12 Tournament at Maugansville Little League.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

MAUGANSVILLE — Levi Taylor is becoming a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

The action and events of games give him all he needs to get in the flow. When the early nerves hit on Wednesday, it was two shots and he was good for the whole game.

Taylor wiggled out of a first-inning jam and countered with a two-run home run to put himself in the right frame of mind. He settled in to pitch 5 2/3 innings to lift Conococheague to a 8-4 victory over Northern Calvert for the losers’ bracket title in the Maryland 11-12 State Tournament at Maugansville Little League’s Jay W. Stouffer Field.

“I had a little trouble early,” said Taylor. “I was having a little trouble getting used to the crowd, but I worked myself though it.”

He and the District 1 champs worked their way through it so well, they earned the right to face undefeated Elkton today at 6 p.m. in the championship round of the tournament. If Conococheague wins, it will force a winner-take-all final on Friday.

“We got a little momentum behind us,” said Conococheague manager Pat Taylor. “(Levi) has been very strong for us. We are very proud of him. We are very proud of the whole team. They are all getting more and more comfortable in the box and they are getting more bats on the ball.”

Levi Taylor held Northern Calvert to four runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out two before reaching his 85-pitch limit after getting the second out in the sixth inning. The keys were his ability to escape with runners on first and third base in the first inning without allowing a run.

Then, he helped provide himself a cushion with a one-out homer off Northern Calvert pitcher Matthew Barrett to ignite a four-run rally in the bottom of the first.

“That was big,” Levi Taylor said about surviving of the first. “Then the homer got rid of the starting jitters and the screams of the crowd and my teammates were there to help me.”

He had plenty of help, too. Isaac Schlotterbeck drove in four runs with a two-run double in the first and a two-run homer in the third. Robert Carr had three hits and scored each time. And then there was Conococheague’s defense, which was flawless.

“A lot of our pitchers have been able to get ground balls and that has really helped us,” Pat Taylor said. “Our defense hasn’t been perfect, but they have made the plays to keep our pitchers in the game.”

The victory was a measure of revenge for Conocoheague, which was defeated by Northern Calvert 4-2 on Sunday in the first game to be sent into the losers’ bracket. In that game, Northern Calvert scored early and kept Conococheague off the scoreboard until the sixth inning.

That wasn’t the case on Wednesday.

After Levi Taylor stranded two Northern Calvert runners in scoring position in the first, he came back with his home run. With two outs, Schlotterbeck hit his double to score Gage Kyler and Carr before coming home on Hunter Ostrum’s double for the 4-0 lead.

“I was just looking for a fastball to hit,” said Schlotterbeck, who came on to retire Northern Calvert’s final batter. “It was good that we scored early from a pitcher’s perspective. It let Levi know that he didn’t have to shut them down and made it easier for him to pitch.”

The two teams traded runs in the middle innings.

Northern Calvert cut the deficit to 4-2 on Kyle Kingsbury’s two-run single to right before Conococheague got the runs back in the bottom of the inning on Schlotterbeck’s homer.

The District 7 champs made it 6-4 in the fourth when Brady Waters scored on a wild pitch and on Dominic Stansbury’s grounder.

Conococheague closed out the game with a run in the fourth on doubles by Keplinger and Jake Arnone and another in the fifth on four Northern Calvert errors.

The victory puts Conococheague in position to achieve their main objective of winning the state title.

“It’s pretty great to have a chance to win a second state championship,” said Schlotterbeck, one of nine team members who won the 9-10 title two years ago. “Some don’t get the chance to win one. We are going to try and make the most of it and have fun.”

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