State Cham­pi­ons

Eight-run first pow­ers Dis­trict 6 win­ner Caro­line into re­gion­als

Times-Record - - Front Page - By DAVID INSLEY dins­ley@star­dem.com

BRUNSWICK — Caro­line Se­nior League base­ball all­stars won the Mary­land state cham­pi­onship with a 9-4 vic­tory over Ris­ing Sun Thurs­day, July 12.

Caro­line, 6-0 in the post­sea­son, is of­fi­cially Team Mary­land, and is sched­uled to be­gin its ap­pear­ance in this year’s Se­nior Eastern Re­gional on July 19 at 7 p.m. against Maine’s state cham­pion. That tour­ney takes place at West Dept­ford Lit­tle League’s Union Field, in Tho­ro­fare, N.J., where it’s been since 1991.

BRUNSWICK — “We’re a hot-start­ing team. We have been the whole play­offs.”

Man­ager Jerry Ste­wart’s words rang true again Thurs­day night at Lee R. Me­r­i­man Memo­rial Sta­dium, as his Dis­trict 6 cham­pion Caro­line Se­nior League base­ball all-stars made an eight-run first in­ning hold up, de­feat­ing Ris­ing Sun, 9-4, for the state ti­tle.

Caro­line, 6-0 in the post­sea­son, is of­fi­cially Team Mary­land, and is sched­uled to be­gin its ap­pear­ance in this year’s Se­nior Eastern Re­gional on July 19 at 7 p.m. against Maine’s state cham­pion. That tour­ney takes place at West Dept­ford Lit­tle League’s Union Field, in Tho­ro­fare, N.J., where it’s been since 1991.

Kyler Boyd pitched six in­nings for his sec­ond vic­tory in the state tour­na­ment, which Caro­line be­gan on Sat­ur­day by beat­ing Ris­ing Sun, 14-6, in the open­ing round.

Ris­ing Sun (7-2), which had to win six straight games out of the loss bracket to take the ti­tle over Caro­line, picked up four wins, each one a knock­out of another dis­trict champ, along the way to Thurs­day’s ti­tle game.

On Sun­day, the Dis­trict 5-cham­pion Ris­ing Sun elim­i­nated Dis­trict 7, 24-1, then dis­patched the Dis­trict 8 rep­re­sen­ta­tive, 11-10 on Mon­day. Tues­day, Ris­ing Sun ousted Dis­trict 1, 7-6, and beat Dis­trict 2, 9-0, on Wed­nes­day in the loss-bracket fi­nal to reach Thurs­day’s cham­pi­onship, need­ing to beat Caro­line twice to earn a berth in re­gion­als.

“They’re a good team; a very good team,” Ste­wart said. “But they made one mis­take: they didn’t start the num­ber 11 kid who they brought in later. He shut us down. But the ear­lier guys we faced, we hit them.”

Ris­ing Sun started Ethan Gul­lion on the bump against Caro­line.

Caro­line lead­off hit­ter Boyd (two runs, RBI) got the open­ing rally go­ing with an op­po­site-field sin­gle to left. Chad Wil­loughby fol­lowed with a base hit, and Chris Curler walked, load­ing the bases.

Adam Boyles chopped a grounder to short, and legged out the throw for an in­field sin­gle, scor­ing Boyd to make it 1-0. A Jake Tow­ers chop to short was mis­han­dled a mo­ment later, scor­ing Wil­loughby, and the 29-minute top of the first was on in earnest. P.J. Gun­ther hit an RBI sin­gle. Will Turner’s dou­ble plated two, and Wil­loughby capped the rally with a two-run triple to left-cen­ter field.

Ris­ing Sun replied with a run in the bot­tom of the first against Boyd. Benny Gilcher led off with a dou­ble, moved to third on a fly ball to right, and scored on a Jackson Sow­ers grounder to sec­ond base.

Caro­line got the run back in the top of the third when Boyd reached on a fielder’s choice, moved to third on a sin­gle by Wil­loughby (3 for 4), and scored on a force out off the bat of Boyles.

Af­ter that, though, Caro­line’s bats were kept quiet by the strong re­lief work of Joey Hus­felt, Ris­ing Sun’s fifth arm of the night. Hus­felt kept Caro­line off the score­board for the fi­nal four in­nings, while he and his team­mates pecked away at Caro­line’s lead.

Ris­ing Sun scored twice in the third on Yogi Eng­land’s dou­ble, and a Sow­ers base hit, then cut the lead to 9-4 in the fourth with a Wil­lie Jackson sac­ri­fice fly to left.

“Oh, it was so much eas­ier to pitch with a big lead,” said Boyd, whose team never trailed in its four-game state tour­na­ment run. “You can feel so much more re­laxed when it’s some­thing like 9-1 in­stead of 1-0, too. ... You don’t feel like ev­ery pitch could cost you the game.”

Curler, who got the pitch­ing vic­tory in Tues­day’s win-bracket fi­nal vic­tory over host Brunswick, was as happy as Boyd; nei­ther had won a state base­ball cham­pi­onship at any level be­fore.

“I said Tues­day it was great to get here,” Curler said. “Now, I feel great to be able to say we won the states.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Curler, who played short­stop when not on the mound — and whose strong throw to first on the game’s fi­nal bat­ted ball ended things, in the form of a 6-3 putout. “But now, we’ve got to just get ready for re­gion­als. And from there, we’ve gotta try to take it one game at a time.”

Af­ter the fourth Ris­ing Sun tally, Boyd worked out of a pair of jams, strand­ing four Ris­ing Sun run­ners in scor­ing po­si­tion in his fi­nal three in­nings of work.

Gun­ner Jo­hansen came on, as he did in Sun­day’s 23-3 rout of Dis­trict 1, to pitch the fi­nal in­ning. He got two quick outs, then walked Sow­ers be­fore Joey Trout grounded out to Curler.

“We knew we had the tal­ent to go pretty deep,” said War­ren White, who’s been coach­ing base­ball with Ste­wart for a decade now — the two won the state Se­nior League ti­tle in 2009, and the Big League (age 16-18) ti­tle in 2011. “And you know what? Th­ese boys have re­ally come to­gether.

“We’ve got kids from three high schools on this team, and as it hap­pens, we’ve got three kids from Colonel (Richard­son), three from North Caro­line, and three from Queen Anne’s County High as starters,” White added. “We didn’t do that on pur­pose. It’s just how it worked out. And the kids all like each other, all get along great, and they’re great to coach.”

Boyd went 2 for 4 in the win. Wil­loughby’s three hits paced Caro­line’s at­tack. Curler, Boyles, Tow­ers, P.J. Gun­ther, Turner, and Ma­son Pate each scored runs.

Catcher Mitch Gun­ther sin­gled, was hit by a pitch, and reached on an er­ror. In the fourth, he threw out would-be base thief while still stand­ing up, nearly 10 feet from sec­ond.

“We played some de­fense to­day; we hit the ball, and Kyler’s been a great part of the team,” said White, who also coached him on ju­nior var­sity in the spring. “Kyler has de­vel­oped so much since March, when jayvee be­gan,” White said. “He couldn’t have done the things he did in this tour­na­ment, back in March. He’s grown so much, and be­come a re­ally solid player. He’s got a lot to be proud of; so do all of the boys on this team.”

The Caro­line ros­ter in­cludes Chad Wil­loughby, Mitchell Gun­ther, Dar­ion Quar­les, P.J. Gun­ther, Gun­ner Jo­hansen, Zach Tow­ers, Kyler Boyd, Ai­dan Richard­son, Matt Wil­loughby, Jor­dan Acree, Hunter Hor­ney, Chris Curler, Ma­son Pate, Will Turner, Adam Boyles; as­sis­tant coaches War­ren White and Mike Wil­loughby; and man­ager Jerry Ste­wart.

Note: Lit­tle League Base­ball folded Big League Base­ball and Soft­ball af­ter the 2016 sea­son due to a lack of growth in numbers and in­ter­est. Se­nior League, which rep­re­sents ages 1416, is now the high­est level of Lit­tle League play.

PHOTO BY DAVID INSLEY

The Caro­line Se­nior League base­ball team poses in front of the score­board, which shows their 9-4 state-cham­pi­onship win over Ris­ing Sun, at Lee R. Me­r­i­man Memo­rial Sta­dium, next door to Brunswick High, on Thurs­day.

PHOTO BY DAVID INSLEY

Caro­line righthander Chris Curler fanned 15 hit­ters in the win­bracket cham­pi­onship game of the Se­nior League Base­ball state tour­na­ment Tues­day, July 10. Curler walked one bat­ter, and car­ried a no-hit bid into the bot­tom of the fifth.

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