Keystone looks to keep season alive

BRISTOL, Conn. — One loss sends Keystone home to Beech Creek. Three wins sends Keystone to South Williamsport.

Needless to say, Keystone’s ambition is an extended vacation away from Clinton County.

After opening the Mid-Atlantic regional with a tough loss to Staten Island, Keystone responded accordingly with a 6-1 defeat against the Delaware All Stars.

Keystone is navigating the losers’ bracket with the intention of rematching Staten Island in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship, but first they get a crack at Maryland tonight on a ESPN nationally-televised game.

“We’re just happy to get to play another game together,” Keystone manager Pat Johnson said. “I think our team is confident. We’ve watched all the teams and I think we’re right with them. There’s three other great teams and we can compete with them, it’s just a matter of playing our baseball.”

Keystone’s identity, its dynamic pitching — was on full display Tuesday. After walking 10 batters against Staten Island they issued no free passes against Delaware.

Keystone needs the same consistency tonight. Maryland’s high-powered offense averages a tournament-high 8.66 runs per game. On Tuesday they dropped Washington D.C., 18-7.

“They got two great hitters in the middle of the lineup,” Johnson said.

Johnson said Keystone’s pitching depth will negate Maryland’s slugging. The coaching staff closely monitored its hurlers this week. Keystone rotated between nine pitchers in two games, none of whom have thrown more than 40 pitches an outing. Through extensive game planning and managing the team has all of its pitchers available tonight for Maryland.

“In the first game (against Staten Island) we made a couple of mistakes, got ourselves behind a few runs and realized it was going to be a big challenge trying to come back from that,” Johnson explained. “So we started monitoring our pitching and tried to keep it available.”

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Maryland’s offense is collectively hitting .316 and averaging nearly nine runs a game. Owen Knerr dominates the middle of their lineup. His four home runs are a tournament-high.

Keystone odds of winning hinge on whether they can limit his output.

“They just have two great hitters in the middle of their lineup,” Johnson said. “They can really rope the ball. They’re a couple of grown men in the middle of the order.”

Through pitching depth Keystone looks to regulates Maryland’s sluggers. And when on offense, Keystone expects to exploit Maryland’s shortage of arms.

“The advantage we got is that I think Maryland is pitched out,” Johnson said. “Three of their pitchers are pitched out for tonight, and we’ve been able to set our pitching up so that everybody’s available. That gives us confidence going in.”

PRIMETIME COVERAGE

Keystone’s previous two Mid-Atlantic Regional games were broadcast on ESPN+. Tonight’s game will be shown live nationally on ESPN.

“It’s exciting to be on national television,” Gardner Fravel said. “The people just get to turn on the television and watch us. It’s exciting, and making it this far in the week has been fun.”

Despite the national audience Keystone has kept a level-headed attitude. They’re quick not to get sucked into the antics that come with the magnitude of this game.

“We’re excited, but it’s just another game against another good team,” Cayden Culvey said.

KEYSTONE WILL WIN IF

“We play mistake-free baseball like we did against Delaware, and if we don’t walk people,” manager Pat Johnson said.

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