Keystone baseball doing itself proud
The Keystone kids are making another run to play on Little League’s biggest stage.
Keystone Little League, based in Beech Creek, Clinton County, claimed the Pennsylvania championship by sweeping four games at the state tournament held last week in Berwick.
Keystone’s next stop is the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Bristol, CT, with the winner of that tournament advancing to the 72nd Little League World Series in South Williamsport.
Eight international teams and eight teams from the United States will compete in the LLWS, which runs from Aug. 16-26 at Lamade and Volunteer stadiums.
State champions from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., will join Keystone in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, which begins today and runs through Saturday.
Keystone drew a first-round bye and will play the winner of the New York-Washington, D.C. game on Monday.
This is Keystone’s third trip to the Mid-Atlantic Regional. Keystone won the Mid-Atlantic crown in 2011 and went on a magical run in the LLWS, attracting record-setting crowds. California, the eventual World Series champion, eliminated Keystone in the semifinals.
Keystone won another Pennsylvania championship in 2016, but lost to Endwell, N.Y., in the Mid-Atlantic finals. Endwell went on to win the LLWS.
Keystone became the cardiac kids at the state tournament, winning three one-run games.
The Clinton County crew rallied from a five-run deficit to beat Lehigh, 6-5, in the championship game. Keystone pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Huntingdon won the District 11 crown to earn a berth in the state tournament but was eliminated in two games, losing to KAU Kennett Square and Lehigh.
The 14th annual Grand Slam Parade will open the LLWS festivities on Aug. 15. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith is the grand marshal for the parade, which will include all 16 teams and runs more than three hours.
The second MLB Little League Classic will be played on Aug. 19 with the Philadelphia Phillies hosting the New York Mets at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.
Williamsport was home to a Mets farm team in the Eastern League from 1964-67 and now home of the Crosscutters, an affiliate of the Phillies in the short-season New York Penn League.
If the kids from small towns just down the road win the Mid-Atlantic Regional, the LLWS attracts some extra attention this year.
The legion of Keystone blue-clad fans will overwhelm South Williamsport, just like they did in 2011.
The Lock Haven area has a deep passion for Little League, thanks to the success of the Keystone, which has won three Pennsylvania championships in the last eight years.
All three of Keystone’s Little League programs had banner seasons. The 11-12 and 8-10 teams won state championships and 9-11 team made it to the state tournament after winning section and district crowns.
If you want to watch Keystone play, make sure you arrive early at the game. If fans can’t make it to the game, they can catch an online stream with John Lipez and wrestling guru Tom Elling on the call. Little League is that big in the Big Woods of Clinton County.
Stop in the convenience store in Beech Creek, and the townspeople are in there talking baseball. Keystone baseball. Phillies baseball.
Blaine Kunes Memorial Park in Beech Creek is Keystone’s home.
There’s nothing fancy in a small town that doesn’t have enough traffic to warrant a signal light (at least it didn’t have one the last time I visited two weeks ago).
But it’s home to some kids with dreams of playing on Little League’s biggest stage.
Paul Lilly is a retired sports writer who resides in Hollidaysburg. He contributes a daily sports trivia question to the Mirror.