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UDC wins sectional
begins state playoffs

Compiled By Duane Good



UDC 10-11 players and coaches join together in prayer following a sectional tournament game. (Submitted photo)

BLOOMSBURG • The UDC 10-11 All-Stars Little League baseball team finished another remarkable chapter in their 2014 campaign by capturing the Section 3 crown July 21.

The District 24 champs ovecame an early-round loss to defeat South Columbia, the program that had denied them a sectional trophy last season when many of the players were on the 9-10 squad.

UDC qualified for the Pennsylvania state 10-11 Tournament which began July 25 in Dillsburg. An update is published on Page A1 of this week’s Sentinel.

Starting with the Section 3 championship game and moving backward, here is a summary of the team’s run through the sectional tournament, held July 17-21 in Bloomsburg.

SECTION 3 CHAMPIONSHIP

Noting that SC – the 2014 District 13 champ – ousted UDC in two straight games last year, Manager Bryan Evans said, ‘‘To redeem ourselves against the same team is sweet. After we won (7-6 against SC July 20), the kids had a feeling that the tide was turning and we would win again.’’

The locals also ousted two other district titlists – Sullivan County (15) and Keystone (12) en route to the title trophy.

UDC 9, SC 6, July 21. The winner-take-all finale had its own version of ‘‘The Catch’’ when Jacob Herman most likely saved the game and the trophy for  his teammates.

With UDC up by four runs in the sixth inning, Herman lept over the centerfield fence to turn what would have been a three-run homer into a sacrifice fly. The play helped UDC hold on for the win that also propelled the boys into the state tournament.

‘‘I knew these kids had it in them and they deserved (the title) by playing their hearts out,’’ Evans said.


The UDC 10-11 All-Stars Little League won the second leg of the Triple Crown in its age group.

The first inning saw SC’s Ben Montgomery posted a solo home run and UDC’s Zach Smeltz pick up an RBI on a ground out to score Herman and even the score 1-1. SC then took a 3-1 lead in the third on Montgomery’s second homer of the game, this one driving in two runs.

The fourth was all UDC as Bryce Herb led off with a single, Bronson Kelly reached on an infield error and Nathan Wise drew a walk to load the bases. Herman’s single scored a run, then Kelly crossed the plate on a passed ball. Mason Evans followed with a two-run double to put UDC up 5-3.

In the top of the fifth, Patrick Yost’s two-run double for SC deadlocked the game at five-all, then 10-year-old Nathan Wise – despite having what Evans called a ‘‘phenomenal game’’ – was replaced by Herb on the mound.

‘‘We brought Bryce in knowing that last year he gave SC fits,’’ Evans said.

UDC proceeded to break open the game with a another four-run performance. Herb singled, Connor Grow was hit by a pitch and Kelly walked to load the bases.

Wise then drew a walk to force in a run to give UDC a 6-5 lead. Herman followed with a two-run single and Jesse Engle grounded into a fielder’s choice, making it 9-5 in the local team’s favor.

‘‘I knew we needed more runs and Jake delivered,’’ Evans said. ‘‘He has a solid bat and I was confident he’d come through for us.’’

In the top of the sixth, SC’s Ian Yoder reached the top of the sixth on an infield error, then moved to second on Zach Smith’s sacrifice bunt. Jason Riefer singled, bringing up Montgomery for his fourth straight attempt at a big blow. (He’d been walked intentionally his last time at the plate.)

Not surprisingly, Montgomery blasted the ball deep and high to center field, but Herman – his glove outstretched – was there to make the catch for SC’s second out of the inning. Herb forced the next batter to ground out to shortstop and was credited with the win.

‘‘After the heartache of last year’s loss, seeing the joy on the kids’ faces after our win brought me to tears,’’ Evans said. ‘‘It was such a happy moment for me, our team and our fans.’’

SECTION 3 SEMIFINAL

UDC 7, SC 6, July 20. Having lost to SC in an earlier round, UDC was faced with elimination from the tournament should it have lost again under the double-elimination format.

On the other hand, if they won, it means facing SC for the third time in what would be a winner-take-all bout.

As it turned out, the local team thwarted a late-game rally by SC to earn the right to avenge the 2013 sectional loss.

Evans said the team and its coaches – Paul Herb, Eric Stiely and Andy Smeltz – huddled before the game.

“Our coaching staff told the boys that it’s time for redemption and to go out and play hard and do what they did to us,’’ the manager noted.

“I told them to come out and play fearlessly, make the simple plays and play smart baseball,’’ he added. ‘‘As I stressed from the first day of practice – I told them to look each other in the eyes; there are 11 brothers playing here as one, and nothing can beat that.’’

After SC took an early 1-0 lead, Nathan Wise doubled for UDC at the bottom at the first. Herman drew a walk, Mason Evans picked up an RBI double and Engle posted a two-run single that put UDC up 3-1. Herb then grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Engle to end the inning.

After shutting down SC in the top of the second, Herman’s solo homer to the center put UDC up 5-1.

“Jake is a solid hitter who usually hits line drives; I knew he had power, but I was surprised when he hit that home run,’’ Evans said.

SC narrowed the gap to 5-2 with a third-inning round-tripper. That score remained stable until the bottom of the fourth, when Mikey Myers doubled, Herman singled to drive in Myers, then scored on a Holden Stiely walk, making it 7-2, UDC.

SC brought another runner home in the fifth to once again cut the margin to 7-3. SC continued to attempt a comeback in the sixth, two walks and two UDC errors to pull within one run, 7-6, with only one out. But a Stiely play to first and a Myers catch to right field ended the game.

Tyler Cleveland was the winning pitcher. Myers pitched four standout innings and Smeltz preserved the save.

‘‘This was Tyler’s first pitching performance of the all-star season and he did a phenomenal job,’’ Evans said.

EARLIER GAMES

UDC 5, Keystone 4, July 19. After losing by 10 runs to SC two-days earlier, UDC had to battle back against possible early ouster and put a plan in place to go for the win.

‘‘Our coaching staff came up with a pitching rotation to keep us fresh and to use pitchers, holding them under their minimum days of rest to utilize later in the tournament,’’ Evans explained.

After Keystone took a first-inning 1-0 lead, UDC’s first four batters made good contact with the ball, although only Herman emerged with a hit (a single). Keystone’s lead off hitter then smacked a double, then scored to put UDC behind 2-0 going into the bottom of the second.

Smeltz posted a single of his own, then scored on Herb’s single to move UDC to within one, 2-1. Keystone finished its turn at bat in the third with two more runs, then shut down three UDC batters in order to maintain a 4-1 lead.

UDC responded in the fourth by retiring the first three Keystone players to forestall any new scoring. With the locals up to bat, Evans walked, then was scored on a single, cutting their opponent’s margin to 4-2 with two innings left.

Keystone began the fifth with two singles, but Engle’s strong throw to Stiely at third base meant one out. Evans – who came in to pitch in the third inning – struck out the next two batters.

In its share of the frame, UDC was thwarted by Keystone’s heads-up play and soon found itself in a two-out situation. Aided by a walk and hit batter, the locals soon loaded the bases. Engle then singled to score Grow and Herman to tie the game 4-4.

Smeltz walked and Stiely’s hard line drive single scored Evans and gave UDC a 5-4 lead. The locals’ come-from-behind victory was secured when Keystone was denied any runs in the sixth.

‘‘These boys never give up; they continue to battle every inning, every pitch, every out,’’ Evans said.

Wise pitched the first two innings while Mason Evans finished the next four and was credited with the win.

UDC 26, Sullivan County 0, July 18. Evans called this game a return to form, saying the locals shook off the opening-round loss to SC and played the way he knew they could, finishing a district champion in just four innings.

‘‘Before the game, our coaching staff told the boys to go out and play one game at a time, forget yesterday’s loss, play with heart and have fun,’’ Evans said. “The boys responded by playing ‘UDC baseball.’ ’’

In the spirit of its 122-run tear through districts, the All-Stars collected seven runs in just the first inning alone. Wise walked, then scored courtesy of Herman’s double. Evans’ two-run homer upped the scored to 3-0, and Sullivan never  got close after that.

For the game, Wise was three-for-three with a double and four RBI. Herman also was three-for-three with five RBI and a double. Evans had two RBI in addition to his homer.

Adding to the damage were Cleveland (two-for-three with a double and two RBI); Stiely (two-for-four with a double and one RBI); Grow (five RBI and a double on a two-for-two game); and Myers (two RBI and two-for-three at the plate).

Pitchers Stiely, Herb and Myers combined for the shut out.

SC 12, UDC 1, July 17. In the locals’ initial sectional game, their old nemesis didn’t exactly roll out a welcome mat, as Montgomery delivered a big blow in the first frame and his teammates followed up with 12 hits, all the while remaining unfazed by five goofs.

UDC’s usual hitting machine was held to single digits (six in five innings). The sole run came on Herb’s single that scored Smeltz.

As a rematch of the last year’s sectional title game, the All-Stars knew it was starting this year’s tournament with a big game, according to Evans.

‘‘We came out kind of flat, with that ‘deer in the headlights’ look,’’ he said.

 




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