BERLIN- The Berlin Little League 9-10 All Stars last week completed a remarkable run to a first-ever state championship for the program, beating South Caroline, 10-4, on Thursday to win the title and advance to the regional tournament this weekend in Rhode Island.
After capturing the District 8 championship two weeks ago, the Berlin All-Stars cruised through the early rounds of the Maryland State Little League Championship Tournament in western Maryland last week, sweeping three games in impressive fashion to advance to the title game. Through the district and state tournaments, the Berlin All-Stars were unbeaten, winning 10 straight games.
Berlin beat Sharpsburg, 10-7, in its opening round game and followed that with a 12-3 win over Hughesville. Berlin then rolled past South Caroline, 18-2, to reach the championship round. After South Caroline emerged from the loser’s bracket, Berlin would get two shots at a championship if needed, but the local team left nothing to chance, beating South Caroline, 10-4, last Thursday to capture its first-ever Maryland state championship.
While Berlin beat South Caroline, 18-2, in its first meeting in the tournament, the second meeting between the two teams with a state title on the line was not as one-sided. Berlin led 1-0 after two innings when Billy Wheatley drove in Eli Saulsbury for the game’s first run.
South Caroline responded with four runs in the top of the third on an uncharacteristic three errors by the Berlin defense. Berlin found itself in the rare position of trailing in a game, but the defense and pitching settled down and the offense got rolling in the bottom of the third.
Collin Eitel led off the inning with a triple and Tristan McDonough singled him in to cut the lead to 4-2. After a Matt Kinsey single, Jack Rosenberg drove in two runs with a single to right to tie the game at 4-4. In the fourth, the Berlin offense got rolling and broke open what had been a see-saw game through the first three innings.
Wheatley reached on a single and then stole second and moved to third on a passed ball. After Zach Pletcher was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners, Ryan Duncan laid down a beautiful squeeze bunt to score Wheatley, and when the South Caroline catcher threw the ball into right field, Pletched and Duncan came all the way around to score in what amounted to an inside the park home run on a squeeze bunt.
After Hayden Snelsire and Kevin Beck singled, McDonough hit a bases-clearing double. When the dust settled after the wild bottom of the fourth, Berlin led 8-4 and the state championship was within reach. Berlin later added two more runs to extend the lead to 10-4 as the pitching and stellar defense that had led Berlin so far took over in the later innings. Berlin closed out the game on a 4-6-3 double play and the celebration was on.
The newly crowned Maryland State Champion Berlin All-Stars are leaving today for Cranston, Rhode Island, where they will compete in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament. Berlin will face Delaware on Sunday in the first-round of pool play. The Mid-Atlantic Regionals will conclude with the World Series next weekend.