MILTON — In another display of offensive prowess by the West Branch 9-11 All-Stars, pitcher Brody Locke stole the show.
Locke struck out 11 and allowed just three hits in a 67-pitch performance as West Branch upended Danville, 17-2, in a four-inning District 13 Little League contest at Brown Avenue Park’s Feichtel Field.
“Locke, we haven’t pitched him (before Tuesday). I didn’t even know that he was going to pitch (Tuesday),” said West Branch manager David Fay Jr. “We warmed him up a few times here lately and noticed (his pitching ability). He was going to be our catcher, but he’s a great pitcher, and you could see that today.”
Said West Branch assistant coach Dalton Fay, “Locke was outstanding today, and we couldn’t be more proud of what we got from him today. But (the win) really started with our at-bats and our team never giving up and keeping their heads up the entire time. That’s how we won.”
West Branch, which consists of players from both Milton and Warrior Run, pounded out 14 hits on the day. The team next faces Selinsgrove, a 19-3 winner over Snyder County, in the winner’s bracket final at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“(The final score) is just crazy. We work on our kids all the time at batting, and we tell them to just stay back on the ball and watch the ball from the (pitcher’s) hand straight to the bat,” said West Branch manager David Fay Jr.
“And you can tell that the work has paid off. We also have very aggressive baserunning, so when we get on the bases, we do our job. Our kids are a phenomenal bunch of kids, and just the way they play together you can tell there is something there, and I couldn’t be more excited for them.”
After plating a pair of runs in the second inning with help from an RBI triple by Bentley Ficks, West Branch would blow the game wide open an inning later after Danville tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the second.
West Branch exploded for 10 runs off eight hits in the third inning when it sent a total of 16 batters to the plate.
Ryker King had two hits, including a double, in the third to go along with two RBI, plus substitute player Gavin Crawford also got his first postseason hit in the frame when he drove a two-run single to right.
In addition, Locke and Jackson Lane both drew bases-loaded walks in the third inning.
“I have a birthday boy who just turned 10 (Crawford) today — he got his first hit,” said Fay Jr. “He’s one of my greatest kids. He’s yes sir, no sir. The kid is one of the best, and he was one of the youngest to get on my team, and for him to get in there and actually get a hit — I’m just excited (for him).”
King later added a two-run single in the fourth, and that was followed by an RBI double from Camden Balzer and an RBI single from Jackson Snyder. Lane set the big inning in motion when he hit a leadoff triple to right.
Now through the first two games of the postseason West Branch has scored 31 runs and given up 13.
Not too shabby for a team that was inherited by Fay Jr. and his coaching staff (which includes Cameron Hassinger), who’ve only been coaching West Branch’s players for the past three weeks.
“We’re excited, but we’re not going to count our chickens before they’re hatched — we’re not that kind of team. We’ve had the kids for what — three weeks or four weeks — and this is what we have, and I’m pretty stoked,” said Fay Jr. “We didn’t even pick our team. Lance Laubach, he’s our president for the year, gave me the opportunity to manage the 9-11s. And in turn, because I didn’t know any of the kids, I said, ‘Pick my team for me and we’ll coach whoever you pick.’
“It’s all about the coaching. Sometimes it isn’t about the kids so much as it is the way you can coach them. If you can be positive with them, they are going to want to play for you and they are going to want to do great things,” added West Branch’s manager. “And that’s what happened today.”
District 13 Little League
at Brown Avenue Park, Milton
West Branch 17, Danville 2 (4 innings)
West Branch 02(10) 5 — 17-14-1
Danville 020 0 — 2-3-5
Brody Locke and Jackson Snyder. Colton Geise, Will Beltz (2), Max Sudol (4) and Jack Kingsbury.
WP: Locke. LP: Beltz.
Top West Branch hitters: Cooper Waltman, 1-for-2, 2 walks, 2 runs scored; Locke, 3 walks, 2 runs, RBI; Ryker King, 3-for-3, double, 4 RBI, 2 runs; Camden Balzer, 1-for-3, double, walk, 2 runs, RBI; Snyder, 3-for-4, 2 runs, RBI; Cooper Crawford, 1-for-4, run; Bentley Ficks, 1-for-1, triple, RBI, run; Jackson Lane, 1-for-1, triple, walk, 2 runs, RBI; Gavin Crawford, 1-for-2, RBI, run; Kage Heistand, 1-for-1, run; Ryan Stevens, 1-for-2, run.
Top Danville hitters: Beltz, 1-for-2; Sudol, run scored; Kingsbury, 2-for-2, double, RBI, run; Spencer St. Clair, walk.