Keystone secures trip to Junior League Baseball World Series

FREEHOLD TWP., N.J. — Berlin, Maryland was down to its final three outs to keep its season alive. For Keystone, just three outs stood between them and a trip to the Junior League Baseball World Series. Keystone did its job, preventing Berlin from mounting any sort of rally, and held on for a close 3-2 win on Tuesday in Freehold Township, New Jersey, to win the Eastern Regional championship and secure a spot in Taylor, Michigan, for the World Series.

“It’s unbelievable. These kids have worked their butts off. This was their dream to get to a World Series. When we were 12, we weren’t able to play because of the pandemic, so it’s unbelievable,” Keystone manager Steve Shade said. “These kids are unbelievably happy and they’re excited to get there. But like they said, they’re not done. They want more.”

The Junior League Baseball World Series is scheduled for Aug. 14-21 in Taylor, Michigan. Keystone will play Monday, Aug. 15, at 2 p.m. against the winner of the Southeast/Central game.

The Junior League Baseball World Series championship game will be played on Sunday, Aug. 21, at noon and is broadcast on ESPN2. All the World Series games prior to the championship can be streamed on ESPN+.

Keystone didn’t waste time getting runners in scoring position in the bottom of the fifth inning, putting two runners on in their first two at bats as Darius Shade and Blake Walker with consecutive singles. It was then Probst who crushed a double to the left-field fence which brought in Shade and put Keystone back ahead by two runs, 3-1, before Berlin forced two outs to end inning.

Daylen Linton quickly helped cut the deficit with a home run to left for a 3-2 deficit to leadoff the top of the sixth inning before three straight outs ended the inning and kept it a one-run game. But that would be the closest Berlin came to possibly tying the game or going ahead. Keystone forced a quick three up, three down inning in the seventh to secure the win and berth to the World Series.

” Our defense is phenomenal. I went in with a game plan that we had everybody available besides one pitcher. But I just said ‘listen guys, this is what we’re going to do.’ I had to switch catchers and switch some positions in case of a what-if game,” Shade said, noting rules regarding catchers and being able to pitch that same day. “They all stepped up big playing different positions. Our pitchers came in and did well.”

Twice Berlin made it a one-run game, and both times Keystone prevented Berlin from shifting momentum away. Berlin scored a run in the top of the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 2-1 when Brandon Nadeau reached on a single. He was then driven in by Caleb Loring on an RBI single.

Anytime Berlin seemed poised to rally, Keystone shut down any momentum and didn’t get rattled.

“These kids are rock solid when it comes to the mental approach of the baseball game. We’ve been battle tested before and we always preach and every kid in the dugout knows: don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Shade said. “We know we’ve been here before. We stick together we can get through this.”

Keystone took a quick 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, and did so with two outs against it. Darius Shade reached on a single before he was out on the next at bat thanks to a fielder’s choice to put a runner on with two outs. An error allowed Watt Probst to reach base and brought in Blake Walker, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

Two walks — Nolan Cross and Aiden Jones — loaded the bases and a shallow single to left field brought in Probst for the second run before Cross was out attempting to head home.

Berlin’s Daylen Linton reached on a shallow single to open the second with an out, but he was stranded at first as a strikeout and infield fly ended the inning. Berlin put a runner in scoring position in the top of the third with runners on first and second with two outs but they were stranded on base.

Keystone’s Jared Bischof and Austin Frank reached to second and first, respectively, to get into scoring position, but both were left stranded as consecutive fly outs ended the inning and prevented Keystone from adding to its lead.

Shade led Keystone with a 2 for 4 effort. Walker went 1 for 2 with a run, Prost was 1 for 2 with a double, RBI and run scored, Hayes Miller went 1 for 2 with an RBI, Josh Ludlow was 1 for 2 and Bischof went 1 for 1.

“Through states we didn’t hit the ball really great, not as well as we can. I just told the boys be patient at the plate. If we’re patient and hit our pitch, not their pitch, we will be fine and we’ll start cracking this thing open,” Steve Shade said. “And that’s what we did this week. We were able to string hits together. There were innings where we had two, three, four, five, six hits in a row to break the games open.”

Berlin, Md. 000 011 0 — 2 6 1

Keystone 200 010 x — 3 7 0

Austin Frank, Blake Walker (2), Darius Shade (6) and Watt Probst, Austin Frank (2), Cole Cooper (5), Probst (6). Caleb Loring, Seamus Orth (5), Kenneth Moseley (6) and Brandon Nadeau. W: Walker. L: Loring.

Top Berlin, Md. hitters: Johnny Hobgood 1-2; Caleb Loring 1-3, RBI; Landon Daniel 1-3; Daylen Linton 2-2, HR, RBI, run; Nathaniel Hallman 1-1. Top Keystone hitters: Darius Shade 2-4, run; Blake Walker 1-2, run; Watt Probst 1-2, 2B, RBI, run; Hayes Miller 1-2, RBI; Jared Bischof 1-1; Josh Ludlow 1-2.


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