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Conococheague forces final game

July 28, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Fans line the fence to slap hands and congratulate Conococheague players Caden Keplinger (28), Darian Bryan (16) and the rest of the team after they defeated Elkton, 11-1, Thursday in the Maryland State 11-12 Little League Tournament at Maugansville. The teams meet again today at 6 to decide the championship.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

MAUGANSVILLE — When it comes to patience, Jake Arnone is a typical 12-year-old. ... He doesn’t have much of it.

But, then again, he didn’t need much on Thursday.

Arnone’s wait ended within the first couple of pitches he saw in the first inning. He turned on a curveball and deposited it over the fence in left field for a two-run home run to support starting pitcher Isaac Schlotterbeck’s compete-game effort in a 11-1 rout of Elkton in the championship round of the Maryland 11-12 State Tournament at Maugansville Little League’s Jay W. Stouffer Field.

“It was right there,” Arnone said. “(Elkton pitcher Will Lorman) hung it and I put the barrel on the ball.”

With the victory, Conococheague forces a one-game final with Elkton today at 6 p.m. The winner advances to the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Bristol, Conn., beginning on Aug. 5.

Patience was the buzzword for Conococheague as it faced Lorman, Elkton’s curveball specialist. Impatience against breaking pitches put the District 1 champs in the losers’ bracket when they lost their opener to Northern Calvert.

“After watching these games, you get a feel of what to expect,” said Conococheague manager Pat Taylor.

“After the first game, we didn’t want to go up and be free swinging. The only thing I can say is Jake is Jake. He is a natural athlete and things seem to go his way when he hits,” Taylor said.

But Arnone was in no hurry to wait.

“It’s hard to be patient,” Arnone said. “Every batter wants to hit the ball, hit the ball, hit the ball. We don’t want to stand there. I didn’t want to wait to help their pitcher.”

Conococheague didn’t help Elkton’s pitching, but neither did the District 6 champions’ defense by committing 10 errors.

The two-run lead was about all Schlotterbeck needed in his second start of the tournament. He held Elkton to one hit — a first-inning single by Jack Stewart — while walking two and striking out seven in his 80-pitch outing.

“Today, I was just trying to throw strikes,” said Schlotterbeck, who also homered. “My changeup was working and I was trying to stay real loose. I was just trying to throw strikes and let my defense help me.”

Conococheague jumped out to a 6-0 lead with four runs in the second by sending 10 hitters to the plate. Gage Kyler had a two-run single and Robert Carr drove in a run with an infield hit to chase Lorman, who was victimized by two errors.

Elkton got its only run in the bottom of the second as Lorman walked and advanced on a pair of wild pitches before scoring on Chris Brinton’s grounder to cut the deficit to 6-1.

“One of my favorite things about this team is it has speed and power,” Taylor said. “We also have guys who can hit the ball on the ground and make things happen. That’s a big help with the speed we have.”

Schlotterbeck hit his two-run shot to left off Elkton reliever Nick Gregson in the fourth to give Conococheague an 8-1 lead. It added three runs in the sixth as Schlotterbeck led off the inning with a single before four Elkton errors helped the scoring spree.

Schlotterbeck’s biggest contribution came on the mound.

“Isaac was magnificent,” Taylor said. “I’m extremely proud of him. He pitched very well and he stayed within himself.”

Conococheague finished with nine hits, led by Schlotterbeck, Arnone, Kyler and Carr with two each.

With the victory, Conococheague is one the doorstep of its obvious objective — winning the state title. Still, the players realized that after losing the opening game, they could have very easily missed the opportunity.

“This feels great,” Arnone said. “I knew we could do it as long as we had heart. That first game was a mistake. This tournament gives you two chances and we capitalized on it.”

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