Heading into Thursday's pool play finale, Pennsylvania's Media Little League had already clinched a spot in the Mid-Atlantic championship.
But the Pennsylvania stars didn't rest on their laurels.
Facing a Maryland team that was pushing hard for its first victory, Pennsylvania got solid pitching performances, good defense and timely hitting on its way to a 6-0 victory. The team finished pool play with a 4-0 record.
“The last thing I wanted to do was to head into tomorrow with a loss,” said Pennsylvania manager Tom Furman. “I really wanted to get the game and also save our pitching. Sometimes, that's a challenge. But our pitchers battled. We struggled a little bit at the plate, but give Maryland credit. Their two pitchers were pretty solid. We battled through it.”
Maryland's Federal Little League came in with an 0-3 record, but two of its losses were by a single run. And it was clear early on that Pennsylvania wouldn't be coasting to a victory.
Still, Pennsylvania found a way.
Leo Burman and Max Brown worked walks in the third, and Kevin Smith plated Burman with a single. Brown later raced home on a passed ball.
Maryland reliever Brayden Quirple kept it a 2-0 game through the fourth, setting the stage for a comeback, but his team could never get the big hit. Maryland left 10 runners on base.
“We had bases loaded there twice and couldn't get that big hit,” Maryland manager Tim Kolb said.
Pennsylvania used five pitchers and all of them were up to the task. Brown, Burman, Smith, Brian Virbitsky and Tommy Bradley carried the load.
“We wanted to save our pitching so we had to change up all of our guys and make sure they were available tomorrow,” Furman said. “We made a lot of nice plays in the field, which is what we had to do using all those pitchers.”
Pennsylvania finally gave itself some breathing room with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Andrew Pak had an RBI single and Nate Furman drove in two runs with a double.
“We had a chance to get out of that fifth with no runs,” Kolb said. “Two-nothing is a lot better than 6-0. Once they added those four runs in the fifth, it was hard. But the boys fought. They never gave up.”
Maryland got base hits from Jayland Williams and Toddie Stocks in the sixth. With one out, Braden Kolb hit a sharp line drive to shortstop, where Furman made the catch and fired a throw to third to double up the runner and end the game.
“Maryland is a solid group and they really hit the ball,” Tom Furman said. “They were looking to get their first win and we had to battle because they were right there until the last inning.”
The loss ended a memorable summer for the Federal team. While the all-stars would have liked to finish with a win, they still ended up as one of the best teams on the East Coast.
“We had a blast,” Tim Kolb said. “They had fun coming down and representing Maryland. We'll never forget it. It's hectic at times. It's non-stop every day, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. They would want to be nowhere else. It's a dream come true. I hope in a couple of years we can come back and represent Maryland as 11 and 12-year-olds. It's been one heck of a ride.”
While Maryland heads home, Pennsylvania will play for the Mid-Atlantic championship at 2 p.m., Friday against New Jersey, which clinched the other spot with a win over Delaware on Thursday.
“Hopefully, we'll be ready to go tomorrow against a tough New Jersey team,” Furman said.