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Thurmont Little League Finishes Second In Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament

Edison Hatter

(8/12) Little League baseball has a magical ability to pull small communities together to cheer for a group of young baseball players on a journey. Some went to the Thurmont Roy Rogers, others trekked into Glory Days in Frederick, more traveled to Bristol with the team, and yet others simply watched from home. Thurmont was recently swept into the Little League Baseball exhilaration as their team competed in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament for only the second time in the teamís sixty-six year history.

Before the team left for the tournament, they heard advice from John Tomasini, coach of the 2005 Thurmont Little League team that won the Maryland state tournament, and received a recorded message from Buck Showalter, manager of the Baltimore Orioles. "No matter what happens in Bristol," Tomasini told the team, "youíve already achieved something only one other Thurmont Little League team ever has. Youíre already winners." "Weíre very proud of you guys," Showalter said, "I know youíre playing in Bristol, and we all will be watching. I canít tell you how proud we are of you." Full of advice and well wishes from the entire state, the Thurmont Little League team headed to Connecticut to represent Maryland and bring a regional title home.

The tournament kicked off on Sunday, August 6 with a few opening round games, but Thurmont had the day off and took the opportunity to visit the studios of ESPN and relax before their first game the next day. In the second game of the tournament, Pennsylvania won a close one, 4-3, over Delaware to earn a date with Thurmont for a spot in the winnersí bracket semifinal. The game was set to begin at 4 p.m. on Monday, but rain pushed the game back almost three hours.

Eventually, the game began and Thurmont was quickly retired in the top of the first despite picking up a baserunner on an error. Josh Skowronski took the mound for Thurmont in the game and struck out the first two Pennsylvania batters to begin the game. However, the next batter, Cole Nilles, hit a deep fly ball to center field that made it over the wall to give Pennsylvania a 1-0 lead. Skowronski soon settled down and picked up the final out of the inning. EJ Lowey led off the second inning for Thurmont and tied the game on a long solo shot to left-center field. Thurmont continued to bat around and had two runners on when Logan Simanski came to the plate with two outs in the inning. He drove the second pitch he saw in the at-bat deep to center field for a three-run homerun to put Thurmont up 4-1 heading to the bottom of the inning.

Unfortunately, Thurmont struggled in the bottom of the second, giving up eight runs on eight hits and two walks. By the time Pennsylvania was retired, they led the game 9-4. However, Thurmont refused to give in and Skowronski led off the top of the third with a homerun for Thurmont after a hard fought at-bat. After that, the game became a pitchersí dual as both sides put up goose eggs on the scoreboard. Thurmont blinked first and allowed an insurance run to score for Pennsylvania in the bottom of the fifth. Pennsylvaniaís pitching was superb in the late innings as they won the game over Thurmont, 10-5.

The following day, Thurmont was back on the field again, ready to begin the journey through the losersí bracket against Washington DC. The game began very similarly to the teamsí contest against Pennsylvania with Thurmont picking up a base hit in the top of the first, but failing to score before giving up a solo shot to Washington DC in the bottom half of the frame. Thurmont worked a pair of walks in the top of the second, but failed to score. In the bottom of the inning, Washington DC was in business with first and second with no outs, but EJ Lowery managed to get out of the inning without any damage done.

Peyton Castellow came up with a huge double in the top of the fourth inning that tied the game at one apiece. However, the excitement was short lived as Jack Sague blasted a deep homerun in the bottom of the inning to give Washington DC the lead again. Thurmont didnít give in, though, and loaded the bases with only one out in the top of the fifth inning. A Will Gisriel single once again tied the game, this time at two all, though Thurmont wasnít done in the inning. The next three batters, Griffin Puvel, Castellow, and Braden Bell, all showed good discipline, receiving three base on balls that put Thurmont ahead, 5-2. A Joey McMannis two-run shot in the top of the sixth padded Thurmontís lead and Braden Manning shut the door in the bottom of the sixth to secure a 7-2 win for Thurmont, eliminating Washington DC from contention.

Thurmont had the next day off to prepare for another elimination round game, this time against Delaware with a trip to the losersí bracket final on the line. Lowery was back on the mound for Thurmont, but struggled in the first inning. After getting the first out of the game, Lowery allowed a pair of walks and a single that loaded the bases for Delaware. The next batter, Paris Mitchell, hit a soft ground ball to second base that scored a run to give Delaware an early 1-0 lead. Runners were still on second and third for Delaware with two outs, but Lowery recorded a strikeout to get out of the inning. Skowronski worked a walk and Gisriel lined a single to center with two outs in the bottom of the first to give Thurmont a chance to tie the game or better, but they failed to score and trailed by a run after one inning. Lowery allowed a walk in the top of the second, but kept Delaware off the board, picking up his third strikeout of the game in the process. Neither side blinked in bottom of the second or the top of the third and Delaware continued to cling to their 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the third inning, DJ Shipton looped a single into right field with two down, but Skowronski lined a ball into center field that was caught to end the Thurmont threat. Delaware also picked up a single in the top of the fourth inning, but Thurmont was able to keep them from scoring any runs in the inning. Gisriel hammered the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the inning for a triple to left field that put the tying run just sixty feet away. Bell was able to bring the tying run home with a ground out to second base to tie the game, 1-1. However, Thurmont couldnít keep Delaware off the board in the top of the fifth inning as a lead-off walk eventually scored on a two-out RBI single that gave Delaware a 2-1 lead.

ith their season on line, Thurmont broke out in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by two two-run homeruns, one from Logan Simanski and another from Gisriel to give Thurmont a 5-2 lead heading into the final inning. Skowronski and Simanski were able to finish off Delaware in top of the sixth to seal a 5-2 Thurmont victory as they once again avoided elimination and earned another date with Pennsylvania with a trip to the Regional Championship Game on the line.

The rematch against Pennsylvania started poorly for Thurmont as they left five runners on base through the first two innings while Pennsylvania picked up a few timely two-out hits to take a 3-0 lead into the third inning. However, Thurmont fought back in the top of the third and scored three runs to tie the game, including two on a huge two-out RBI single from McMannis. After holding Pennsylvania scoreless in the bottom of the third, Thurmont blew the game wide open in the top of the fourth inning, scoring ten runs on eight walks, an error, a pair of doubles, and a monstrous grand slam off the bat of Simanski.

The team from Upper Providence, PA continued to fight though, scoring a run in the bottom half of the frame and putting runners on second and third with two outs. One run would have extended the game into the fifth inning, but Simanski forced a strikeout that secured a 14-4 mercy rule victory for Thurmont, just four days after they lost to Pennsylvania, 10-5.

Thurmontís final game of the tournament was held the next night and was broadcast by ESPN to millions of watchers all over the world. A trip to Williamsport was in order for the winner of the game between Thurmont and Jackson, New Jersey. One of Thurmontís star pitchers, Simanski, was back on the mound for the title game. After getting two quick outs in the top of the first, he allowed a solo shot to Chris Cartnick that just got over the fence to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead. Thurmont put the first two runners in their half of the inning, but a strikeout and double play ball ended the Thurmont threat in the first inning. Thurmontís defense made a crucial throwing error in the top of the second that allowed two more New Jersey runs to score as they took a 3-0 lead. New Jersey went on to score four more runs in the inning on a two-run RBI double and a two-run homerun to take a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the second inning.

Lowery led off the bottom of the second with a base hit, but was erased on a double play as Thurmont didnít score in the inning. Both teams were held scoreless in the third, but Thurmont finally broke through the New Jersey pitching in the fourth, scoring three runs on two RBI walks and an RBI single to get within four runs of New Jersey. Castellow, replacing Simanski on the mound in the second inning, was masterful in the fifth, retiring the side in order and keeping New Jersey from scoring any additional runs. Skowronski got the bottom of the fifth started for Thurmont, lining a 3-2 pitch down the third base line for a single. Unfortunately, Thurmont couldnít drive in the run and trailed by four heading to the last inning. New Jersey finally broke through Castellow in the sixth, scoring an insurance run and leaving another runner stranded at third. Thurmont came to bat in the bottom of the sixth with their season on the line. Castellow lined a single to the opposite field with one out, but Thurmont couldnít rally and fell 8-3 to New Jersey to conclude their amazing season.

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