Keystone good, but early comparisons unfair to the kids

The demolition is complete. The hyperbole and grandiose predictions continue growing.

The Keystone major division all-star baseball team finished slugging its way through the District 12 Little League tournament and captured the championship Friday at Volunteer Stadium when it pounded Loyalsock, 14-1 in five innings. Keystone treated four opponents like the Harlem Globetrotters do the Washington Generals, outscoring them 81-3. The more people saw this wrecking machine play, the more inevetiable comparisons to the 2011 Keystone U.S. third-place finisher became.

It was like all the instant historians who work at ESPN and believe that anything happening at this moment makes it the best ever flocked to central Pennsylvania. When I hear those growing comparisions two words always come to mind.

Calm down.

Yes, this is an outstanding Keystone team, but to already be talking about it coming back to the Little League World Series next month is not only presumptuous, but also silly. And talk about putting pressure on a group of 11 and 12-year old kids. Let the kids play and have fun without worrying about measuring up to something another set of kids did two years ago.

This is its own group. Let it pursue its dreams without putting an enormous burden upon its collective shoulders. It is nice to have lofty goals and I encourage that, but people have to settle down. As cliched as it is, they need to take this one game and one tournament at a time.

The next step is the Section 3 tournament in District 24’s Cressona LL, starting next Saturday. District 12 perenially does well in that tournament, but nothing is a given in an all-star tournament that features only district champions. The state tournament follows and is a huge obstacle, as the 2011 team knows. The state tournament is as tough as there is in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, and Keystone had a tougher time getting through that tournament than it did regionals two years ago.

Do not get me wrong, Keystone is a terrific team. One does not obliterate four straight all-star teams without being outstanding. Keystone not only scored 81 runs, but also delivered 87 hits and crushed 25 home runs as both starters and reserves battered opposing pitchers. All that despite never having to play a six-inning game. Those are four-game numbers that are hard to comprehend. Those are video-game like numbers. It was like Keystone was playing Home Run Derby and the other teams were just hoping they could shag some of those long drives.

Oh yeah, Keystone can pitch and field extremely well too. The pitchers stifled each offense and never allowed more than a run in a game while the defense played strong behind them.

Keystone played the same game the other District 12 teams did, it just played it on another level.

As great as Keystone has played, questions remain. For starters, how will the team react when it finds itself in a close game and has to go the full six innings? How will it respond on a day when balls are not flying out of the park? How strong will future opponents be? How will Keystone handle adversity? All those are big-time questions, and to start writing this team into the Little League World Series or to start saying that maybe this team could be better than the 2011 team makes no sense.

In order to reach the Series, teams not only have to be fantastic but also catch some breaks. Keystone clearly was the state’s and Mid-Atlantic region’s best team two years ago. Still it caught a big break when the regional championship was suspended because of rain and it no longer had to face a New Jersey ace who looked good enough to carry his team to a championship and beyond. Had that not happened, history might be different.

All these are reasons why people need to calm down. Let the kids have fun without throwing out huge predictions. Keystone is an excellent team and a district champion. Time will tell how far it goes from here.

Until then, simply enjoy the ride.