Keystone All-Stars set to play New York

BRISTOL, Conn. — The Eastern Region (Mid- Atlantic and New England) began the Little League season with 1,800 teams, but now it’s shrunk to an Elite 12.

Keystone joined the

prestigious club with a 6-5 win over Lehigh in the Pennsylvania State Championship. Now, they’re facing relentless out-of-state competition with the ambition of advancing to Williamsport for the Little League World Series.

Keystone finally has an opponent set in stone after a week of suspense and speculation. They’re scheduled to face the New York All-Stars today at 10:00 a.m. New York secured the date against Keystone with a 10-2 win over Washington DC in the Mid-Atlantic Regional’s opening game.

“They’re good,” Keystone manager Pat Johnson said of New York.

“They’re probably one of the best teams here.”

New York’s dominance this summer rivals Keystone’s. Representing the Mid Island League in Staten Island, they boast a 12-0 record and outscored opponents 142-18 entering today’s game. New York is averaging 11.8 runs-pergame while only allowing 1.5 scores-per-contest.

New York produced video game numbers on offense in its state’s bracket, but Johnson believes their defense is equally talented.

“They’re a very well coached defensive team,” Johnson said. “They’ve got some really good pitching. It’ll be the most challenging pitching matchup I’m sure we’ve seen yet.”

The Keystone team scouted New York’s 10-2 win over Washington DC. They managed to absorb the game’s first few innings before exiting to tour ESPN’s headquarters.

Johnson indicated the Sunday’s final score was misleading of the game’s actual competitiveness. Washington committed three errors, and baserunning mistakes negated their scoring opportunities. The game was scoreless until a three-run fourth by New York who tallied another seven runs in the fifth.

“They’re very well coached from what I can see,” Johnson said. “They definitely do all the fundamentals, including bunting which we haven’t faced much yet.”

Keystone’s players are embracing the challenge. They aren’t fazed by New York’s statistics, and the three-day break since arriving in Bristol has them anxious to return to the field.

“We know this is going to be a great challenge, and we know it’s going to be a great game,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to go out and keep doing what we do.”

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Keystone’s stingy defense facing New York’s explosive offense is today’s prime matchup.

Keystone’s defense contained opponents to 1.75 runs-per-game in the state playoffs, while New York’s offense produced north of 10 runs an outing.

Keystone pitchers Braylen Corter, Levi Schlesinger, Gabe Johnson and Brady Myers need sensational performances, if called upon, to clear the first round with a win.

“We got to play great defense and take advantage of our opportunites,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be another battle. At this level, everybody’s good. When on the doorsteps of Williamsport, every thing is tough.”

New York’s offense produced 10 runs and 13 hits against Washington DC. Steve Martinez highlighted the game-hitting 3-for-3 with a home run.

“They have a very strong first four or five hitters,” Johnson said. “Steve Martinez is very, very good. He’s the real deal.”

KEYSTONE WILL WIN IF

“We play a complete game,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take everything. We’re going to need to play solid defense, and our

pitchers are going to have to hit their spots and not make mistakes.”

AROUND THE TOURNAMENT

Maryland defeated Delaware, 6-0, in Sunday’s afternoon game.Maryland will face New Jersey 4 p.m. today in the second round of the winner’s bracket.

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