BERLIN – Community members had nothing but praise for the Berlin Little League team that fell just short of reaching the Little League World Series last week.
The Berlin Little League 11-12 All-Stars were the talk of the town this week after a tough loss in the Mid-Atlantic regional tournament in Bristol, Conn., on Sunday. Mayor Gee Williams was among the many local residents who watched the Berlin team play on ESPN.
“It would almost bring tears to your eyes how well they represented Berlin and represented Little League Baseball,” he said.
The team, led by Coach Cameron McDonough, spent more than a week in Bristol competing in the regional tournament that began Aug. 5. The team kicked off the tournament with a 6-0 win against Delaware representative Milton but dropped its next game to New Jersey 6-2. An impressive 18-7 victory over the Washington D.C. team secured the Berlin players a spot in Mid-Atlantic regional semifinals, which meant their fans back on Delmarva were able to follow their journey on national television.
“I couldn’t help but watch every inning on the ESPN,” Williams said during Monday’s town council meeting.
Berlin Little League played its first televised game last Thursday against Pennsylvania, jumping out to an early lead much to the delight of those watching from home. With plenty of runs, solid defense and great pitching, Berlin cruised past Pennsylvania, 6-0. That win set up a rematch with New Jersey, the team that handed Berlin a loss early on in the tournament. McDonough’s players again got off to a strong start, with three runs in the first inning and six runs in the fourth inning before cruising to a 11-1 victory over the New Jersey team.
A trip to the Little League World Series was on the line Sunday afternoon as Berlin faced the New York team, Mid Island Little League of Staten Island. The New York pitcher threw a rare perfect game, however, retiring all 12 batters he faced and dashing Berlin’s hopes of playing in Williamsport.
“They played so well,” McDonough said this week. “The boy we ended up losing to, I truly believe he’s one of the best pitchers in the country in this age group.”
And while the Berlin Little League team might have had its run cut short, they were honored with the tournament’s sportsmanship award after their win against New Jersey.
“That to me says it all,” Williams said.
McDonough said the Berlin team received the award because it represented the values of Little League
“Our group was chosen because of the way they carried themselves,” McDonough said.
Williams said it was clear watching the team play on ESPN that even the commentators noticed how well Berlin’s players worked together and kept a positive attitude throughout the tournament.
Councilman Zack Tyndall agreed.
“When you watched it on ESPN there was a level of maturity that you didn’t see with some other teams when something went poorly,” he said. “Our players weren’t throwing their bats, they weren’t having a tantrum at the plate. They carried themselves well and I think they have a lot to be proud of.”
Councilmen Elroy Brittingham and Dean Burrell echoed Williams’ comments and praised the team’s coaches.
“Their actions on the field can be directly attributed to their coaching staff,” Burrell said.
McDonough, who’s spent the past 15 years coaching Little League, said the 14 players he brought to Bristol were simply a reflection of the community they came from. He pointed out that the local boys were the only ones competing in the tournament who didn’t have jerseys labeled with their names.
“The only name we cared about was the name on the front of the jersey and that was Berlin,” McDonough said.
He said the tournament was an incredible experience for the team and went beyond baseball.
“This wasn’t just about sports,” he said. “These kids are learning a lot more than that. Baseball’s just a vehicle. We’re trying to teach the boys how to become young men and how to deal with success and failure. I don’t think any one of them would have traded it for anything.”
While naturally the kids were upset with Sunday’s loss, McDonough used a Garth Brooks song—The Dance—to help them put it in perspective.
“Some things are worth the pain,” he said. “These guys are going to look back at this with pride.”