A local youth baseball team returned to the area on Sunday after a tough loss in the Senior League Baseball World Series.
The KAU Little League Senior Division All-Star team from Kennett Square, Pa. lost to Panama in the championship game on Saturday. In a highly contested match-up, Panama came out on top, winning 2-1.
"We lost a World series game 2-1 against a lights out pitcher who was reportedly drafted by the Mets, and a chance to win in dramatic fashion in the bottom 7th," said Todd Duerr, the team's manager. "The better story is not the win/loss record rather the wins the boys obtained due to their personalities. This group of boys through their easy going, lets play ball, and lets be polite to those we interact with gained the hearts and lived the dream of thousands of people."
More than a 1,000 fans held a celebration at the KAU complex on Leslie Road Sunday afternoon. They later escorted the team's charter bus as it made its way through town.
"It's just amazing we're so proud of them, they are so accomplished and they're a good group of boys that work well together," said the grandmother of one of the teens.
From the look of the celebration you could not tell that the team lost.
“Completely unexpected, I had no idea this was happening,” said one player.
The team, representing the U.S. East Region, earned their spot in the finals by beating the U.S. West champion Pearl City, Hawaii 9-4 in the semifinals of the Senior League Baseball World Series in Bangor, Maine. The boys finished second in the Little League Senior Division and were named the national champions.
The loss marked the end of a long journey for the 15 and 16-year-old boys, which began back in July when they won the Pennsylvania District 28 championship. But many of the Chester County natives have played together since they were 8 and 9-year-olds.
“Putting us on the map is great, but I think people need to wake up and realize that southeastern Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, there's a lot of good baseball being played,” said Matt Patterson, a Little League Board Member.
The kids 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 were put on hold or became 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.
“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.
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.