After months of nail-biters and close calls an area youth baseball team is forced to wait today to find out if their dreams of a world championship will live on.
The KAU Little League Senior Division All-Star team from Kennett Square, Pa. just wrapped up a 3-1 run in pool play of the Senior League Baseball World Series in Bangor, Maine. The effort puts the “KAU Kings” in a position to move into the semifinals Friday however they need some help to get there.
The 15- and 16-year-old boys’ journey began back in July when they won the Pennsylvania District 28 championship. But many of the Cehster County natives have played together since they were 8- and 9-year-olds.
The kids have spent the summer on the road -- some shuttling back and forth between tournaments and high school football practice -- staying in rented homes and hotels and waiting out rain delays while grabbing naps on car and bus rides in between. Their family vacations have been put on hold or become baseball trips instead as they won districts, then sectionals, then states -- winning five games in a week -- before claiming the U.S. East Regional crown to get to this point.
“It’s been a great run, it’s grueling… it’s just amazing for 16-year-old to go tournament by tournament and grind this all out,” said coach Chris Jarmuz whose son Drew bats leadoff for the team.
That run continued with wins over the Southwest champs from Laredo, Texas, the European & Africa champs from Emilia, Italy and the Central champs from Chicago, Ill. In the first three games of Pool B play at the Senior Little League World Series.
The Kings -- made up mostly of teens from Unionville High with a few players from Kennett High as well -- could be at the end of the road after losing their first World Series game.
The fate of the dozen boys was in their own hands when they took the field late last night against Panama. Thanks to back to back squeeze bunts, the team hopped out to a 3-0 lead but Panama, the Latin America champs, came back with five unanswered runs to win 5-3.
The Kings are now playing the waiting game dealing with a full day of wondering about their future ahead of tonight’s matchup between Panama and the team from Texas. If Panama wins, the Kings are in, even if Panama loses they still could get a shot.
“The formula is simple, we know the number, if Panama scores three or more runs by the percentages we’re in,” Jarmuz said.
The team led by guys like pitching ace Andrew Jones, Alex Pechin, Joe Zirolli, Tucker Reese and others waits. And even if they play again they will be without catcher Eric Duerr -- who had played a great series -- who was hurt during a collision in Wednesday’s night, Jarmuz said.
If they make it into the semifinals they will play Friday with a chance to play in Saturday’s championship game, which will be nationally televised.
Whatever happens it’s been a great run and Jarmuz says that the team will stay through the weekend for a players’ dinner and other events.
“We are essentially guests of the Senior World Series,” Jarmuz said.
After that the guys will go home and spend the last days of summer break before returning to school. Their sacrifice was shared with their families.
Jarmuz said that early on parents with some help from the league and district footed the bill for their sons to play but as the team advanced to the World Series, accommodations, transportation, meals and all expenses were covered by the Little League.
Let’s hope they get a chance to play at least once more game.
You can track tonight’s game here.