BERLIN — The Berlin Little League’s under-12 Major League team swept its first three games in the Maryland state championship tournament in Arbutus, including a 2-0 nail biter over Conococheague on Tuesday, and stands on the threshold of a third straight state title.
Fresh off their third straight District 8 championship, the Berlin team headed to Arbutus last week seeking to collect their third straight state championship and move on in the ultimate quest to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport next month. Berlin swept their first three games, beating Bethesda, 4-3, in the opener, cruising past Elkton, 12-2, in the second game on Sunday and edging Conococheague, 2-0, on Tuesday.
With the 3-0 start, Berlin reached the state championship game and awaits the winner of the loser’s bracket game between Conococheague and Brunswick, set for Wednesday night. Whoever emerges from that semifinal game would have to beat Berlin twice to keep the local team from claiming their third straight state title. The championship game is set for Thursday night. If Berlin were to fall in that game, it would get a second chance at defending its title by virtue of its unbeaten record.
There were four lead changes in the opener against Bethesda last Saturday before Berlin emerged with the 4-3 win on a Matt Kinsey walk-off, two-run homer. Kinsey’s homer drove in Billy Wheatley and staked Berlin to a 4-3 win in the opener. Ryan Duncan also had two extra base hits including a triple in the first and a homer in the fifth.
The two teams were tied a 1-1 in the fourth before Bethesda scored twice to take a 3-1 lead. Berlin scored one in the fifth to pull closer at 3-2 before Kinsey’s dramatic walk-off homer to win the game in the sixth. Hayden Snelsire was dominating at times on the mound for Berlin, allowing just two hits and no earned runs in three-and-two thirds while striking out seven and walking none.
Berlin returned to action on Sunday against Elkton and the bats came alive in a comparatively easy 12-2 win. Berlin actually trailed early, 1-0, before exploding for four runs in the third and eight runs in the fourth inning to blow it open. Wes Powell led the way with two hits and three RBIs including a home run in the third inning.
The win over Elkton improved Berlin’s record in the tournament to 2-0 and set up a showdown with also unbeaten Conococheague on Tuesday. Berlin scratched out two runs on just two hits to take a 2-0 lead and Hayden Snelsire was dominating on the hill to make the lead stand up although it wasn’t always easy. The Berlin defense was stellar behind Snelsire, picking off two runners attempting to score from third during the contest. Snelsire was replaced by Tristan McDonough on the mound after giving up a leadoff single in the 5th and McDonough then gave up a walk to put two on with no outs. However, McDonough then struck out the side to seal the win for Berlin and put the team on the doorstep to its third straight state championship.
This year, the team is in the age bracket that competes in the nationally televised Little League World Series and with its three straight district titles and two state championships under its belt and a third within its grasp, reaching Little League’s signature event appears to be a realistic goal. Should Berlin prevail in the tournament and collect their third straight state championship, the major league team would have to navigate regional tournaments to reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. in August.