The journey to becoming the best Little League team in the state opened with one of the most difficult opponents on the slate. It would be a team that would rise from the ashes to force a second matchup in the tournament.
Keystone opened the District 12 Major Baseball Tournament with a game against Williamsport. Both teams played well, with Makai Day and Gabriel Johnson both doing the majority of the pitching for their respective teams. Both looked outstanding, but Keystone pulled away for a four-run victory.
The run was full of highlights from just about every player on the team. Pinch-hitters came up with big hits, pitchers tossed nearly perfect games, and the defense just kept rolling along as the small group from Clinton County earned the right to be called the best team in the state.
There were plenty of highlights as Keystone attempted to qualify for its second Little League World Series. Let’s take a look and break it down by tournament for one more look at this remarkable team and its summer.
In the opening game of the District 12 Tournament, Keystone faced Williamsport at Beech Creek. Johnson and Day exchanged strikeouts and outs throughout the game, but a late push by Keystone proved to be the difference. It was the beginning of a string of dominant performances from Johnson throughout the postseason. He picked up the win in the opening game, pitched in relief to help in the Winner’s Bracket final, and finally came back to defeat Williamsport one more time in the District 12 Championship.
In the District 12 Championship, Johnson retired the first five batters he faced and recorded seven strikeouts through the first three innings. Johnson picked up the win after recording the first out of the final inning.
Johnson was one of many pitchers to have a big impact on Keystone’s postseason run. Levi Schlesinger pitched against Snyder County in the Section 3 Tournament and retired nine of the first ten batters he faced. Four of the first six outs were strikeouts. Gardner Fravel and Connor Foltz finished the job for Schlesinger to push Keystone into the Championship game.
Throughout the Section 3 Tournament, Braylen Corter showed why he belonged on the shortlist of top Little League players in the State. Corter recorded six hits throughout the first two games of the tournament. He hit home runs, droves runners home, and played outstanding defense at shortstop. In the final, Corter finished going 2-for-2 with a home run, two runs scored, and four more drove in. Keystone claimed a 12-0 win over Pottsville to win the Section 3 Tournament.
Once through the Section Tournament, Keystone set its sites on States as it opened play against Lehigh. The tournament would progress in similar fashion with Keystone winning the first game, advancing to the championship, and taking on the same team it opened against in the championship.
In between, Keystone showed it was capable of winning close games and blowouts. Keystone won 1-0 over Lehigh to open the tournament. Dallas Alexander reached first with a second-inning single and advanced with an error and single to score the game’s lone run. Corter picked up the win in the opening game. He also started the second game off with a home run to help Keystone knock off C-Side Academy 3-1.
In the Pennsylvania State Championship Keystone fell behind early as Lehigh opened with five runs over the first two innings. Keystone looked shook by the outburst, but the kids quickly displayed their mental toughness by posting four shutout innings and scoring six runs to close out the game and win the state.
Corter hit a home run, Alexander went deep, but a pinch-hitter played hero, as Elek Fravel came off the bench to chip a single through the infield to score the game-winning run.
Throughout the postseason Keystone, it’s fans, and parents showed why the team has become a fan favorite for Little League supporters all across the state. The team’s signature blue and white uniforms are becoming a mainstay at the top tournaments. The fans also surround every field they play at to offer support.
The summer was special for all the players that ended with a trip to Bristol, CT for the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament. Keystone recorded a 1-2 record in the tournament, falling to Berlin, Maryland. The league will continue to grow as Keystone continues to push for a second appearance in the Little League World Series. It might not be this group, but the players carved out another legacy for the league to be proud of for years and years to come.