During the round robin portion of the District 4 Major Williamsport Little League baseball tournament for 11- to 12-year-olds, Dover and East Holmes played a tremendously exciting game that East Holmes eventually won 3-2.
That game featured great pitching, a couple of timely hits and some wonderful defensive plays.
As the battle for a district title wore on through round robin play, it became very evident that these two teams would knock heads again in the finals. To no one’s surprise, they did just that as East Holmes carved up North Canton 16-1 in one semifinal while Dover dismantled Twin City 13-5 to set the stage for a donnybrook in Berlin on Tuesday, July 17.
This one was another tightly contested battle, and although East Holmes captured the title with a 6-2 victory, this game may have rested on several key plays that could have just as easily turned the tide in favor of Dover.
Monty Coblentz took the mound for East Holmes to start the game and plowed through his first inning of work, and his teammates gave him the lead in the bottom of the inning against talented Ethan Kellicker. In the inning Conner Beachy led off with a single but was forced at second base on Cody Yoder’s ground out. Luke Hershberger then drew a walk as did Brady Yoder, and Cody Yoder raced home on a wild pitch to give East Holmes a lead.
That lasted all of one inning as Dover answered quickly. With one out Tommy Coletti singled and was forced at second on a ground ball from Cade McGarry, who took his place at first. Jaden Metcalf then rifled a triple to the gap in right-center to plate McGarry, and he then raced home on a wild pitch to make it 2-1 in favor of Dover.
Kellicker roared through the next two frames unscathed, but key number one occurred in the top of the third inning, and it bit Dover. Kellicker hammered a ball to the wall in right-center, and he zipped around the bases. As he came to third base, he slid in safely head-first, but sliding head-first is illegal in Little League rules, and Kellicker was ruled out, stifling the inning.
That set the stage for key number two in the fourth inning. East Holmes came to bat trailing, but a walk and back-to-back singles from Collin Coblentz and Monty Coblentz followed, and the second of those hits scored the tying run. Collin Coblentz then gave East Holmes the lead by stealing home. That was large, but what ensued for East Holmes next was even bigger. A walk and an error followed, loading the bases, and Kellicker threw a terrific pitch low and away to Cody Yoder, who deftly went with the pitch and launched it into right-center for a bases-clearing double and a 6-2 East Holmes lead.
“Just a huge hit,” head coach Jake Coblentz said. “That was just a terrific battle, and Cody just stayed with that pitch and hit it where it was thrown.”
Dover was not going down without a fight and set the stage for critical play number three. Gavin Taylor singled, Carter Grove walked and an error off the bat of Sean Baumberger loaded the bases with nobody out. That brought Monty Coblentz’s day to an end, and East Holmes head coach Jake Coblentz turned the ball over to hard-throwing Brady Yoder. After recording a strikeout for the first out, Yoder delivered a full-count fastball to Zane Conner. Conner rifled a hard shot that sizzled down the first-base line and went no more than 2 inches foul, just missing the bag. Had it been fair, it would have cleared the bases and drawn Dover to within a run. Instead, Brady Yoder regrouped and struck out Conner before striking out his third straight Dover batter by retiring Bryce Graziani to escape the dangerous situation.
East Holmes went quietly in the fifth, but now Brady Yoder was in a groove and recorded two ground outs and a strikeout on just nine pitches to send East Holmes to the state tournament.
It has been more than a decade since East Holmes has sent a team to state, so this was a time to rejoice for a team that has been on the brink of state several times. Many of those times they were denied by Dover. Last season they were beaten in the finals by Tuscarawas County.
“It feels really good to finally break through,” head coach Jake Coblentz said. “I told the kids after the game we have been working very, very hard to get back to state, and I thanked them for getting us there. It was their doing.”
These two teams were carbon copies of one another, both boasting great pitching and strong defense. However, both committed a couple of miscues in the game, and Coblentz said nerves certainly played a role in those.
“We made a couple of plays that aren’t typical of us, but I told our guys that they bent but didn’t break tonight, and that is a sign of a good team,” Coblentz said. “These are great young men who understand how to play the game. And they enjoy playing together.”
Having not been to state in awhile, East Holmes knows the road only gets tougher at the next level, but with a strong group that is fundamentally sound, they are more than ready to go and take their shot at winning a state title.
“Both of these teams would have represented our district well at the state level,” District 4 director Tom Meder said following the game.
Then Meder said this of East Holmes. “Seeing how well you play the game, you should do well.”