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Hepburn Lycoming is eliminated at state tournament, ends remarkable run

EVAN WHEATON/Sun-Gazette Hepburn Lycoming’s Cooper Roman throws a pitch in the first inning of a Little League major baseball Pennsylvania state tournament elimination game against Upper Providence. Hepburn Lycoming lost, 19-0, in three innings in Conyngham.

CONYNGHAM — Hepburn Lycoming players were in no mood for a pep talk. They didn’t want to hear it.

The weight of the moment eclipsed the beauty of what Hepburn Lycoming accomplished. After combining with players from Montgomery, Hepburn Lycoming put together a Cinderella run in the postseason, capturing its first District 12 title since 1977.

Upon claiming its first Section 3 championship in league history, Hepburn Lycoming already established its winningest year in league history. Said year came to an end in the state semifinals on Tuesday after a 19-0 loss in three innings to Upper Providence at Whispering Willows Park in an elimination game.

“Somebody told me there’s over 300-something charter Little Leagues in Pennsylvania. To me, No. 4 in the state, that’s still a great accomplishment,” Hepburn Lycoming manager Marc Hess said. “The kids don’t want to hear that right now, but definitely someday, they’ll look back on this and appreciate it.”

The X factor going through the remainder of the Little League major division state tournament was Hepburn Lycoming’s pitching depth. Briar Persing was out of the circle after throwing 86 pitches on Monday. LJ Hill also threw 85 pitches on Sunday, so the team looked to its bullpen to continue the run.

EVAN WHEATON/Sun-Gazette Hepburn Lycoming’s Briar Persing swings at a pitch from Upper Providence’s Jalen Bowman on Tuesday in a Little League major baseball Pennsylvania state tournament elimination game in Conyngham.

It was a tall order, but Hepburn Lycoming had already beaten the odds in prior elimination games.

The program survived three consecutive home runs from Valley West in the sixth inning the day prior. A third homer from Persing with two outs in the bottom of the sixth before that to force extra innings against Hollidaysburg.

Hepburn Lycoming is used to pressure and had already gotten through plenty of uncomfortable situations against good teams. Tuesday marked another day at the office with a thin pitching core.

“At that point, we knew we were down on pitching, but we still had confidence in our kids,” Hess said. “That’s one hell of a baseball team there. To be honest with you, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them in the World Series. I noticed the first game of the tournament they hit the ball. They really do. It’s shocking that they actually lost a game 3-1. I can’t see that team — as many hitters as they have — only scoring one run.”

A base hit from Tommy Sergio on a 3-2 pitch brought home Sam Buckley for the first run of the game early in the first inning. Ryan McVey then doubled in Sergio to close out the first inning with a 2-0 lead.

EVAN WHEATON/Sun-Gazette Hepburn Lycoming players warm-up prior to Tuesday’s Little League major baseball Pennsylvania state tournament elimination game against Upper Providence in Conyngham. Hepburn Lycoming was eliminated with a 19-0 loss.

Cooper Roman started on the mound for Hepburn Lycoming. He pitched two and 2/3 innings and finished with 10 hits allowed and four batters walked.

Carter Bunn came home on a wild pitch to kick off the second inning scoring. Jalen Bowman then smacked a three-run homer to give Upper Providence a 6-0 cushion with no outs. Jude Schuberth added an RBI single before the sides retired.

Hepburn Lycoming found itself in a deep hole early.

“Our kids got down on themselves, had a couple bad calls we found on the umpiring and stuff like that,” Hess said. “And of course at that point their heads got down and they let one miscue lead to another.”

Wild pitches began to accumulate in the bottom innings, and Hepburn Lycoming finished with four errors as opposed to Upper Providence’s lone error in the third frame. Hepburn Lycoming was in scoring position in the bottom of the second after a sacrifice fly advanced DJ Harris to third base, though Bowman closed out the frame with a strikeout.

EVAN WHEATON/Sun-Gazette Hepburn Lycoming’s DJ Harris (front) and Hepburn Lycoming practice prior to Tuesday’s Little League major baseball Pennsylvania state tournament elimination game.

Bowman pitched the first two innings with four strikes, three walks and two hits allowed across 31 pitches. He also provided three runs on the day.

Already catching fire, Upper Providence’s offense exploded with 12 runs in the top of the third, highlighted by a grand slam from Jack Strezminski.

Hepburn Lycoming was held to just two hits, one after the other in the second inning.

Jaxson March found himself in scoring position in the third frame, but Hepburn Lycoming’s runners were left stranded once more after a strike thrown by Strezminski to solidify the shutout.

Upon reaching the Final Four in Pennsylvania, Hess reaffirmed that not only is he proud of Hepburn Lycoming’s most productive campaign ever, but in time, his players will be too.

“Overall, I’m really thrilled for these kids,” Hess said. “They’ll understand what they got through here when this is all said and done with.”

Upper Providence 25(12) — 19 16 1

Hepburn Lycoming 000 — 0 2 4

Cooper Roman, Ethan Hugar (3), Nolan Brelsford (3) and Jaxson March. Jalen Bowman, Cooper Fanaro (3), Jack Strezminski (3) and Sean Kenney. W–Bowman. L–Roman.

Top Upper Providence hitters: Sam Buckley 3-3, 2B, 2B, 2B, 4 runs; Jalen Bowman, 1B, HR, 3 runs; Tommy Sergio 2 HR, 1B, 3 runs; Aidan Ludwig 2 1B; Ryan McVay 2 1B; Jack Stezminski 2B, GS. Top Hepburn Lycoming hitters: DJ Harris 1-2, 1B, BB; Conner Hofstrom 1-1, 1B; Briar Persing BB; Jaxson March BB.

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