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Hagerstown tops NC for 12U District 6 title

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Players and coaches on the Hagerstown Little League Baseball 12U Team smile with the title banner after winning the Indiana District 6 Tournament championship with a 5-3 victory in seven innings over tourney host New Castle Monday night. The Hagerstown players also received championship pins to mark the occasion and will play in the state tournament on the southwest side of Indianapolis.
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Players on the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team wait to receive their runner-up pins after falling to Hagerstown 5-3 in seven innings in Monday night’s second championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. New Castle defeated Hagerstown 11-10 in Monday’s first game to qualify for a chance to win the title.
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Collin Beaty (right) of the Hagerstown Little League Baseball 12U Team is about to fire the ball toward the plate against a New Castle batter during Monday night’s second championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Beaty had a perfect game through 3 1/3 innings, left with a no-decision after throwing 70 pitches, and hit a grand slam homer in Monday’s first-game 11-10 loss, but Hagerstown won the second game 5-3 in seven innings to claim the title.
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Gavin Frazier of the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team gets ready to hurl a pitch toward the plate against a Hagerstown batter during Monday night’s second championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Frazier had a no-hitter and 10 strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings, left the mound trailing 2-1 after throwing 85 pitches, and had a no-decision in New Castle’s 5-3 loss to Hagerstown in seven innings.
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Drew Dock of the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team stands at second base after doubling in a pair of runs against Hagerstown during Monday evening’s first championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Dock hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning of Monday night’s second game to send it into extra innings, but New Castle lost 5-3 in seven.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

It seemed only fitting that Monday night’s championship game of the Indiana District 6 12U Tournament between host New Castle and Hagerstown would need an extra inning to decide who would advance to this year’s state tournament and remain alive in the quest to reach South Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series.   

Hagerstown is that team, as it squeezed across two runs in the top of the seventh inning and held New Castle scoreless in the bottom of the frame to record a 5-3 victory and punch its ticket to the state tournament at the Decatur Township Little League facilities in Indianapolis. 

Unlike the slugfest that preceded it in Monday’s first game, an 11-10 New Castle win in regulation, this game was a pitchers’ dual. But it had just as much drama and as many tense moments as did the first contest.

“Credit New Castle for playing hard and never giving up,” Hagerstown Manager Jeff Combs said afterward. “They’re always a difficult challenge for us and own this district most years. They have hitters from top to bottom. But I’m really proud of our guys. We never gave up, battled hard, and came out with the win. I guess this was our year.”

New Castle starting pitcher Gavin Frazier had a no-hitter when he left the game with two outs in the top of the fifth inning — and trailed. Hagerstown starting pitcher Collin Beaty had a perfect game through 3 1/3 innings, but he, too, exited the mound before the game concluded and got a no-decision.

“Hats off to Hagerstown,” New Castle Manager Kevin Frazier said after the game. “We just couldn’t get anything going early. We didn’t hit a ball out of the infield the first three innings. We were hitting the ball, but it was right at them and they were making the plays.”

At this level of baseball, pitching and defense are extremely important to success, and Hagerstown was just a bit better in those areas in this game. Hagerstown’s defense was flawless in the contest, and except for a hiccup here and there, its pitchers seemed to get the outs when most needed.

“Defense and pitching are our calling cards,” Manager Combs explained. “People around town ask me how this team compares to the 2013 team that won the state tournament, and I tell them this team is at least as good defensively as that team was. Our guys work hard, and it shows.”

New Castle won the coin flip to determine the home team, so Hagerstown batted first in each inning.

Frazier walked Ben Williams on four pitches leading off the top of the first inning before striking out the next batter. Williams moved to second base on a wild pitch, but Frazier got the next two outs on caught foul balls to end the inning, leaving Williams standing on second base.

New Castle went down 1-2-3 against Beaty in the bottom of each of the first three innings.  

Hagerstown took the lead without benefit of a hit in the top of the second inning. Frazier struck out the first two batters he faced in the frame, but the second one, Gavin Walter, reached first base safely after a dropped third strike. 

Anthony Kelley reached base on an error and Gabe Childs walked on five pitches to load the bags. Braylon Doerstler came in to run for Childs. Frazier struck out the next batter swinging after four pitches for the second out, but then walked Williams on five to bring Walter across the plate with the first run of the game. 

Kelley dashed home after a passed ball to give Hagerstown a 2-0 lead, but when Doerstler tried to score when a ball briefly eluded the catcher, he was tagged out at the plate to retire the side.

Frazier retired Hagerstown 1-2-3 in the top of the third inning, the first two via strikeout, and issued a two-out walk to Grant Childs in the top of the fourth. A.J. Shilling, who came in to run for Childs, took second base on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball.

But Frazier fanned the next batter on a called third strike, leaving Shilling standing on third base.

With one out in the last of the fourth inning, Frazier got the first hit off Beaty, a ground-rule double that bounced over the left field fence. Frazier moved to third base on a single by Landon Semler, and scored on Isaiah Gard’s groundout to pull New Castle to within 2-1. The next batter grounded out 1-3 to end the inning.

Frazier’s pitch count reached 85 after he struck out the first two Hagerstown batters in the top of the fifth inning, and he left the mound with a no-hitter and 10 strikeouts to play shortstop as Semler came in to pitch for New Castle.

Will King tripled to the left field corner on Semler’s first pitch for the initial Hagerstown hit of the contest, but Semler induced the next batter to ground out pitcher-to-first, and King was left standing at third base.

New Castle missed a golden opportunity to tie or take the lead in the last of the fifth inning. Leading off, Drew Dock drew a five pitch walk off Beaty and Ethan Blackburn came in to run for him. Kye Golliher’s fielder’s choice grounder forced Blackburn at second for the first out of the inning.

Beaty walked Jake Jenkins on a 3-2 pitch before striking out the following batter. With two away, Beaty walked Lewis on four pitches to fill the sacks and left the mound after tossing 70 pitches.

Doerstler came in to pitch for Hagerstown and induced Frazier to hit a deep fly ball to left on which the fielder made a fine catch to retire the side, leaving the bases loaded.

“It was a tough choice,” Manager Combs said. “No. 23 (Frazier) is their best player and we certainly didn’t want to see him hit in that spot. But we had no place to put him, so we pitched to him and took our chances. It turned out pretty well for us.”

Hagerstown added an unearned “insurance” run off Semler in the top of the sixth inning. leading off, Beaty’s fly ball was dropped for a two-base error. Semler fanned Combs on four pitches, but a dropped third strike enabled Combs to reach first base safely and Beaty wound up on third.

King came in to run for Combs and stole second base. Walter singled to centerfield on a 1-2 pitch, driving in Beaty for a 3-1 advantage and King moved to third base. Walter stole second base putting the two runners in scoring position with nobody out.

The runners held on Kelley’s hit into left field, but then King made a delayed dash for home plate and was tagged for the first out with Walter moving to third base. Kelley took second on the throw.

Semler bore down and struck out the next batter on a called third strike and got the batter after that to pop up for the third out of the inning, leaving two runners in scoring position and an opportunity for New Castle in its final at-bat.

In the bottom of the sixth, Doerstler induced the first two New Castle batters to fly out to the outfield, and the tourney hosts were down to their last out. But Abrams hit a 0-1 Doerstler pitch into left field for a single, and Dock followed by blasting a 3-0 Doerstler offering over the left centerfield fence for a two-run homer and 3-3 tie.

“That was a big hit,” Manager Frazier said, “and he (Dock) had some big hits for us in the first game. I thought momentum might swing toward us after that, but we couldn’t get the winning run across and they got the lead right back the next inning.”

Logan Tharp got hit by a pitch and took second base on a passed ball, putting the winning run in scoring position. But Doerstler struck out the next batter swinging on four pitches, and the game went into extra innings.

In the top of the seventh inning, Semler walked Williams on four pitches and Williams moved to second base on a passed ball. Cole Tracy’s single to centerfield plated Williams for a 4-3 Hagerstown lead, with Tracy moving to second base on the throw-in.

Tracy took third on a passed ball and scored on a single by Xavier Mathews to boost the advantage to 5-3.

King came in to run for Mathews and was out at second base on Beaty’s fielder’s choice grounder. All hands were safe on Combs’ fielder’s choice grounder and Walter walked on four pitches to load the bases.

But Beaty was out at home plate on Kelley’s fielder’s choice ground ball and the next batter popped out to the first baseman to retire the side.

Jenkins singled off Doerstler leading off the bottom of the seventh inning, and Mathews came in to pitch for Hagerstown. He was effective in recording the save, as Jenkins was forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Lewis, and the next two batters flied out to right and grounded out to end the game at 11:06 p.m., 2:27 after it started.

“Our guys are crying right now because it hurts to lose in a game like this,” Manager Frazier added. “But we played seven games, won five, and someday they’ll look back and realize the fun times they had in this tournament. We’re not done, as we’ll look for a tournament somewhere so we can keep playing a while longer.”