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'An unbelievable week'

Conococheague heads to Bristol as Team Maryland

July 30, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com
  • Conococheague players celebrate their victory Friday night.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

MAUGANSVILLE — While the home run ball became the most significant part of Conococheague’s offensive arsenal during the Maryland State 11-12 Little League Tournament, it was a hit that stayed in the park that can’t be forgotten.

It was a game-winning double by Justin Beckley that kept the hopes of the locals alive Tuesday, when Conococheague rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to avoid elimination with a 10-9 victory over South Maryland.

That hit helped turn things around for Conococheague, which went on to win the state championship with a 14-10 victory over Elkton on Friday.

“It was Justin’s night,” said manager Pat Taylor, looking back on the Tuesday game. “After that, we talked about the snowball effect it could have for us. That night, like tonight (Friday), was a rollercoaster kind of night.”

While other players finished with more hits than Beckley — his game-winner was one of just two in the tournament — it can be argued that no other hit was bigger.

“I was really happy I got the hit,” said Beckley, celebrating the state crown with his teammates. “Everybody was happy with that hit and it got us fired up for the rest of the tournament.”

Conococheague went on to beat Northern Calvert in the losers’ bracket final and then Elkton in the first game of the championship round before Friday’s triumphant performance.

Conococheague hit 13 home runs in six games in the state tournament, which included grand slams in Friday’s title game by Levi Taylor and Robert Carr, whose third-inning blast rallied Conococheague from a 5-1 deficit following a 1 hour, 38-minute rain delay.

Taylor also had a three-run homer in the fourth inning, followed by Jake Arnone’s shot. Taylor ended the tournament with seven homers and 14 RBIs while batting .474.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw, two grand slams in one game,” said Pat Taylor, holding back tears. “There is so much heart on this team. Elkton was impressive, but we have a tremendous bunch of kids.”

Despite the deficit and the rain delay, Levi Taylor kept positive.

“I wasn’t worried when we were down,” he said. “We had the rain delay (against West Salisbury) and came back out and destroyed them.”

The championship was the second in three years for Conococheague, which also won the state title in 1961. Next up is the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament in Bristol, Conn., where Conococheague — now Team Maryland — will face New York in its first pool play game at 5 p.m. Friday.

“This has been an unbelievable week,” said Pat Taylor. “The fans were unbelievable. They gave us a big push of adrenalin.”

It also marks the fourth straight year a team from District 1 has played in the state final. Brunswick defeated Halfway in 2010 and Federal won the state title on the way to the Little League World Series in 2008.

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