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Little League tournaments were entertaining

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com


The past 10 days of Little League Baseball tournaments were entertaining to watch. One of my sports correspondents, Ron Greeson, and I tried to provide as much local coverage as we could, given time and budget constraints, and I hope you readers enjoyed reading the stories as much as we enjoyed writing them.

In my three-plus years as sports editor of this newspaper, I never ceased to be amazed at what I’ve seen at the lower levels of baseball, and I’ll stick by my guns and still say it is entertaining baseball.

First of all, the District 6 Tournament involving the New Castle Green and White teams that concluded with the championship game Tuesday night, coverage of which is in today’s edition of The Courier-Times.

I loved this tournament, in the sense that games went very quickly. Pitch count and runs-per-inning limitations, coaches throwing pitches to their own players, and no taking of home on wild pitches or passed balls is all fine with me at this level.

I saw three games of this tournament, two on Sunday and Tuesday evening’s championship game, and one thing I was impressed with was the defensive play of some of these youngsters age 8 and 7.

In this tournament, teams had to play defense to be successful, as almost every ball was put into play with few strikeouts. Cambridge City played just a bit better defensively than did the New Castle Green Tuesday evening, and that’s why it won the championship.

These games many times took less than an hour to complete and there weren’t many boring moments. I’d like to see more of that in the major leagues.

I saw only one game of the 10U Indiana District 6 Tournament, but it was the most important one – the championship. I would have been to more, but the 12U tournament, the one that leads to the Little League World Series, was going on at the same time. More about that later.

Anyway, New Castle won the 10U tourney 8-0 over host Hagerstown to move on to the state tournament, and I will attempt to get up to Forth Wayne to see this team as I can fit it into my schedule.

I’m glad I covered this game because I got to witness the best pitching performance I have seen all summer, the two-hit, no-walk shutout masterpiece thrown by New Castle’s Darin Reynolds against Hagerstown.

Here’s a youngster (9 years old, I think), who goes six innings and doesn’t allow a single walk and doesn’t hit a batter, staying ahead of most of the hitters. That’s amazing at that age. The major leagues could use someone like that right now.

Few things get my goat more than seeing a major league pitcher, who’s paid millions of dollars, go into a game and walk a bunch of batters. Dude, it’s your job to go in there, throw strikes, and get batters out!

Of course, Reynolds had help with good defensive play by his teammates when he didn’t strike out batters. This game went the full distance and still took just 78 minutes to complete, which was great.

Now to the 12U District 6 Tournament. New Castle most years kind of breezes through this tournament. But the hosts’ first two games this year in District 6 were one-run squeakers, a 2-1 win over Union County and a 9-8 extra-inning loss to Hagerstown after blowing a 6-0 lead.

This put New Castle in a rare position – having to win five games in a row, three in the losers bracket, before taking two in the championship round from the champion of the winners bracket.

New Castle had little trouble with Cambridge City and beat Union County 11-1 in its next game, even though that game was much closer than the final score indicates.

Three teams were left, Aurora, New Castle, and Hagerstown, and Hagerstown already had punched its ticket to the championship round by defeating Aurora. Any three of those teams would have been a deserving champion.

Saturday evening, New Castle played Aurora, could do little offensively against Aurora’s ace Adam Kunkel, and were a heartbeat away from elimination. Kunkel left the mound in the bottom of the sixth inning, leading 7-2 with one out and one on after tossing 87 pitches. 

Aurora’s next pitcher came in and got the second out. New Castle was down to its final out, down five runs, and you read in Tuesday’s paper what happened next. It was the second-best, last-inning baseball comeback in an elimination game I have witnessed, topped only by Tri scoring six runs against Cowan with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning  to erase a 5-0 deficit to win a Class A sectional in 2007.

The only difference was New Castle only tied Aurora in the last of the sixth and scored a run in the seventh inning to win 8-7.

Monday night’s championship round was a delight, five hours of nerve-wracking baseball to decide the District 6 champion. New Castle raced out to an 11-1 lead in game one, only to have Hagerstown score eight runs after two outs in the bottom of the fifth before New Castle held on for the 11-10 win, forcing a second game.

Hagerstown appeared to have that second game won, but New Castle’s Drew Dock hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game and send it to extra innings before Hagerstown pulled out a 5-3 win in seven.

Folks, that’s one reason this job is so much fun and really isn’t work at all.

David Risley is sports editor at The Courier-Times