After a long day of waiting to find out if their dreams of a world championship would live on, an area youth baseball team took the field today with a chance to the championship game of the Senior League Baseball World Series.
The KAU Little League Senior Division All-Star team from Kennett Square, Pa. beat the U.S. West champion Pearl City, Hawaii 9-4 in the semifinals of the Senior League Baseball World Series in Bangor, Maine to advance to the final.
The “KAU Kings” went 3-1 in pool play and thanks to a win by the Latin American champs from Chitre, Herrera, Panama over the U.S. Southwest champs from Laredo, Texas, the kids from Kennett, representing the U.S. East Region, earned a spot in the Final Four.
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They took full advantage of the opportunity by riding a four-run first inning and a five-run seventh as well as strong pitching by Andrew Jones to earn a spot in Saturday’s championship game, which will be nationally televised at 2 p.m.
The 15- and 16-year-old boys have come a long way. Their journey 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.
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 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 before losing to Panama in their pool play finale.
The Kings -- made up mostly of teens from Unionville High with a few players from Kennett High as well -- played the waiting game yesterday dealing with a full day of wondering about their tournament fate. If the team from Texas won and held Panama to two or fewer runs then the Kings would have been eliminated.
Panama won (and so did Kennett) and Panama will take on the U.S. Southeast champs from Martinez, Ga. later Friday.
The Kennett team led by guys like pitching ace Jones, Alex Pechin, Joe Zirolli, Tucker Reese and others will be without star catcher Eric Duerr -- during a collision in Wednesday’s night -- the rest of the way, Jarmuz said.
Thanks to the explosive efforts of the entire team, the Kings overcame the loss.
Whatever happens in the final it’s been a great run for the kids and a sacrifice 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.
You can track the championship game on the Senior League World Series website.