As long as one goes forward instead of backwards, an accomplishment is achieved — and though the Lower Sussex Junior Baseball League team didn’t get to the World Series, they did improve on last year’s standing.
Lower Sussex’s representatives went .500 in regional play, winning two and losing two.
Head Coach Craig Conover’s team easily defeated Maryland’s representative, West Salisbury, 7-0 in the tournament opener on Aug. 6.
Luis Barrientos doesn’t allow many base runners, but he’s even stingier on giving up runs, and he stranded all five West Salisbury base runners in the 7-0 complete game shutout. Catcher Bo Wilkinson went 2-2 and Elijah Foreman continued his productive hitting by adding an RBI double.
Lower Sussex was unable to keep the ball rolling against the host team, Freehold Township, N.J. and fell to them 8-2 on Aug. 7.
Starting pitcher Cory Showalter helped his cause by hitting 2-3 with a single and RBI double, but his three strikeouts and four walks weren’t enough for the win.
Wilkinson added a RBI single in the loss to Freehold Township.
Freehold Township continued their dominance by stomping the team from Brick, N.J. 16-1 and appeared to be on their way towards a Little League World Series.
“They’re probably the best team in the tournament,” said Conover.
Lower Sussex rebounded to defeat Connecticut 7-0 on Aug. 8 by the arm of starting pitcher Cameron Travalini.
Travalini tossed a complete game shutout, as well as adding two RBIs.
Three games in as many days can be tough on kids, especially after finishing up rigorous state and district tournaments, but fatigue may have played a factor in Lower Sussex’s eventual 3-1 loss to Massapequa, N.Y.
“It was a long week,” said Conover. “The game against New York was our fourth, while they were on their second game.”
Overall, Conover was pleased with the progress that his players displayed and understood just how tough it is to get to the Little League World Series.
“We did better than last year,” said Conover. “We had some timely hits in the wins and played very solid on defense throughout the tournament. The people up here were talking about how good we were and said that we were probably the second best team here.”
“It was a team effort and they hung in there,” said Conover. “Out of 720, teams only 10 can make it.”
Lower Sussex Junior League will lose six 14-year-olds to a higher division, but will return just as many to try to repeat as district and state champions.
“You’ll see us next year,” said Conover.