By Tom Williams
Talk to the members of Boardman’s 11-12 Little League baseball team about state tournaments and you’ll learn that having fun and team bonding are major themes.
So is beating Hamilton, the winner of Little League’s 10-11 state tournament in 2012 and the 9-10 event in 2011.
“Hamilton, they were good,” Nick Yallech said. “We just need to hit better against them.
“And we’ve been working on hitting.”
Boardman dominated the district tournament, outscoring its opponents 68-12 in four games. Those wins are sending the nucleus of the team to its third straight Little League state tournament.
“We’re hitting the ball really well,” Alex Cardona said.
But teammate Cameron Kreps advised, “We shouldn’t take anyone lightly.”
Sunday at 5 p.m. in Ashtabula, Boardman will open the double-elimination tournament against the winner of today’s game between Dover and Bellevue.
“We truly feel this team grew more this year than any team that will be at state,” Boardman head coach Brian Fonderlin said after Friday’s tune-up game against Lowellville in the Liberty tournament. “Everybody has hit home runs, everyone has made key plays, everyone has contributed.
“We don’t skip a beat in our lineup.”
Assisting Fonderlin are coaches Lou Cardona and Rob Eicher.
Because of pitch-count restrictions, a strong pitching staff is a requirement to survive a week-long tournament. Fonderlin has six he’s prepared to use: Cardona, Travis Harvey, Jake Fonderlin, Kreps, Michael Fetsko and Shay Eichter.
Other members of the team are Michael O’Horo, Troy Waliszewski, Devin Whitaker, Cameron Burford and Griffin Schantz.
The more a pitcher throws in a game, the longer the rest required before he’s eligible again (20 or fewer pitches means no rest needed, 21-35 means one day off, 36-50 two days, 50-65 three days).
Unlike last year when the team traveled to Clyde and stayed in hotels, Boardman will be commuting to Ashtabula at least until hotel space opens up.
In 2011, Boardman finished fifth; last year, Boardman was fourth.
“We lost our bats,” O’Horo said of last year. “This year, we’ve been hitting a lot more. We’re hoping to take down Hamilton.”
Harvey said, “We have confidence that we have a shot at this thing.”
Sunday at 2 p.m., Boardman’s police and fire units will lead a send-off at the Chili’s parking lot at the Southern Park Mall.
“It’s really a nice experience,” Kreps said of the send-off. “It’s a fun gathering and that’s what Little League Baseball is about.”