BERLIN- The Berlin Little League’s 9-10 All-Star team won the Maryland District 8 championship on Monday, beating East Wicomico, 12-0, in the title game, making it two years in a row for the local program after a nine-year drought.
Last year, the Berlin Little League’s 11-year-old All-Star team won the program’s first District 8 title in nine years and advanced to the state’s Final Four before bowing out. This year, two Berlin teams reached the district championship game with one, the 9-10 All-Star team, taking the title in impressive fashion after an impressive, undefeated run through pool play and the playoffs.
The 9-10 team jumped out to an early 2-0 record in pool play last week allowing just one hit and no runs in its first two games. Berlin beat East Wicomico, 10-0, in the opener behind a no-hitter by Andrew Bunting. Berlin was equally dominating in its second game, thrashing Princess Anne, 12-0, in a game pitched by Grant Donahue, who allowed just one hit and no runs while striking out eight.
Berlin stumbled a little bit against West Salisbury last Thursday but squeaked out a 6-5 win. On Sunday, in the last game of pool play, Berlin whacked Pocomoke, 12-2, to finish a 4-0 and earned the top seed going into the semifinals.
On Sunday, the 9-10 All-Stars got back to their shutout ways, beating Delmar, 6-0, to reach the District 8 championship game. Again, Donahue turned in an impressive pitching performance, scattering five hits and striking out five on his way to a complete game shutout. The win over Delmar in the semis set up Monday’s championship game with East Salisbury, who Berlin had clobbered, 10-0, in the pool play opener.
The Berlin Little League complex was awash with the sights and sounds of baseball and summer on Monday evening as the 9-10 All-Stars prepared to take on East Wicomico in the District 8 championship game and the 11-12 All-Stars got ready to face Fruitland in the semifinals on an adjacent field.
Despite playing at home, the Berlin 9-10 team was officially the visiting team in the championship game on Monday and wasted no time setting the tone for the contest in the first inning. After loading the bases with no outs, Justin Meekins hit a triple to score two runs and stake Berlin to an early 2-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Andrew Bunting then delivered a single to drive in another run and Logan Bradford got in the act with a run-scoring single of his own to stake Berlin to a 4-0 lead after one inning. Berlin added two runs in the second inning to make it 6-0 and collected two more in the third on a hard grounder to short by Meekins to make it 8-0, and the only drama left was if Berlin could hold on for their fourth shutout win in the playoffs and a District 8 title.
East Wicomico made some noise throughout the middle innings, but Bunting worked through some jams with great defense behind him to hold the lead and eliminate any threats. With the score 12-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Bunting got East Wicomico one, two, three to win the championship, touching off a celebration on the field that included the players doing flips in the outfield grass and a Gatorade bath for Manager Herman Hickman.
Meanwhile, on the other field, Berlin’s 11-12 All-Stars were gutting out an 7-4 victory over Fruitland in that division’s semifinals to advance to the championship game. Berlin’s 11-12 All-Stars were equally impressive, going undefeated through pool play to reach the district semifinals and a date with Fruitland on Monday.
Berlin’s starting pitcher Jason Stitely cruised through the early innings while his team built a 7-0 lead. Fruitland kept pecking away, however, and cut the lead to 7-4 late in the game, but Berlin held on to advance to the District 8 title game on Tuesday against West Salisbury.
However, the 11-12 team, made up largely of the Berlin team that won the district championship last summer, fell to West Salisbury, 14-6, on Tuesday in the title game. West Salisbury had dominated throughout the playoffs, allowing just one run in five games, and despite the loss, Berlin showed a lot of heart in the title game after falling behind early.
The District 8 champion Berlin 9-10 All-Stars now advance to the state tournament which is being held at Cambridge starting this weekend and concludes next Wednesday.