Patrick Johnson stood between the players and coaches and raised his arm to ask for a moment from both sets of people.
Once granted his moment Johnson started to thank the players and parents for their support. He barely lasted a few seconds before becoming choked up as he addressed the crowd moments after Keystone captured the league’s third Major Baseball State Championship at Ber Vaughn Park in Berwick with a 6-5 win over Lehigh.
The moment was charged emotionally as years of work by coaches, parents, and players culminated in them being named the top Little League team in the State of Pennsylvania.
As this column hits the presses and begins circulating Keystone will have already played a game in Bristol, Connecticut in the hopes of advancing into the Little League World Series. If that happens, it will be the second Keystone team to qualify for the event. It will also be one of the biggest stories of the year.
“We knew they were going to come here en masse and turn it blue,” Johnson said of the fans. “You could just feel it coming, and a lot of it was because of the energy we were feeling.”
Keystone was locked in a five-all tie with Lehigh as it attempted to qualify for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament. Keystone overcame a slow start, scored four runs over the final two innings, and put itself in a position to win late.
The defense did its part with an outstanding top of the sixth. The crowd started to come to life and prior to the bottom of the frame starting the fans began to make their impact felt. The chants of “we are Keystone” started and the floodgates opened as an energized team came to the plate with hopes of finishing the game off.
“It makes us feel really supported,” Elek Fravel said of the fans. “Everyone around wants to come out and watch. It was an hour, and a half drive to the field and its cool people drive that far to watch us play baseball.”
Berwick was a drive, but the last time Keystone managed to reach the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, it was an even further drive to the State Tournament. The 2016 team reached the state championship on a rain-soaked day that saw the game get pushed back three separate times before finally getting played. The drive to the west end of our state was nearly four hours, but the crowd-supporting Keystone was the same. There were even some of the current group of players there to support the team.
“We are really close,” Elek Fravel said. “We do everything together. We play different sports. We go to birthday parties together. We’re just like a family.”
As Keystone navigates its way to becoming one of the biggest stories of the year for our area of the state, it will be supported by endless amounts of fans and parents. It will likely be playing its second or third game by the time this is published, but it’s still worth saying good luck and thanks for an amazing summer.