2019 8-10 District 6 Baseball Champs: Homerun Baker (copy)

The Homerun Baker 8-10-year-old baseball all-stars won the District 6 title on June 30, defeating Tri-City 16-10 in the final. With the win, Homerun Baker advances to the state tournament beginning July 13 in Baltimore.

EASTON — This year’s District 6 Little League Baseball playoff tournament for 8-10-year-olds had plenty of excitement, and, in the end, even had a second title game.

Double-elimination brackets — which require all teams but the champ to lose twice before being knocked out of contention — offer a chance for a second winner-take-all final if a team with one loss makes a championship out of the elimination bracket, and then defeats the sole unbeaten squad in the “first” title game.

That’s how it happened Sunday night between Homerun Baker and Tri-City, with the teams meeting at North Easton Park to decide who’d advance to the state tournament. Getting there took a week’s worth of battles — in fact, three of the tournament’s nine games involved the finalists.

In the opener June 24, Homerun Baker and Tri-City met for the first time. HRB knocked its opponent into the loss bracket with an 18-7 win. On an adjacent field that night, Cambridge defeated Kent County, 24-12, setting up the first elimination game the next evening between Tri-City.

“Losing that first game, that hurt. We were fighters, though,” Tri-City head coach Steve Lieske said. “We kept hitting, and never stopped. ... We fell behind a couple of times in losers’ bracket games, but managed to come back.”

Tri-City survived its first do-or-die battle, knocking Kent out in a 10-8 contest on June 25. But it still needed four consecutive wins to take the title.

“I give them credit,” Lieske said. “We had our backs against the wall all week, and these kids played great.”

Homerun Baker stayed in the top half of the bracket on the 25th, defeating tournament host Easton, 12-6, to make the winners’ final the next night.

Tri-City then began what Homerun Baker started, handing Easton its second loss, 8-5 on June 26.

Cambridge fell, 11-1, to HRB on June 26 in the win-bracket championship. The following evening, Tri-City notched its third knockout in as many nights, defeating Cambridge, 15-9, to set up a rematch of its first game.

In Friday’s championship, Homerun Baker scored three runs in the top of the first inning and giving head coach Joe Brzeczek cause for continued confidence.

“I was just hoping the boys would maintain focus and that we could continue the hitting we had been doing to that point,” Brzeczek said. “We had scored 18, 12 runs, 11 runs to that point, so we had the offense.

“But we put three runs on them in the first, and they responded with two bottom first,” Brzeczek added, “and their kid settled in, and they just proceeded to bury us. it was kind of a slow death that game.”

Tri-City rallied from that early hole, and rolled to a 12-4 win, forcing a second, “if-then” championship game on June 29. Thunderstorms postponed Saturday’s game, though.

The delay “actually helped me. I’m sure it helped Homerun Baker, too,” Lieske said. “It gave me some pitching back. I wasn’t nervous at all.

“We didn’t have a lot of expectations coming in, but that helped,” Lieske added. “Saturday, if we played, pitching was going to be kind of a hodgepodge, but the extra day helped a little bit.”

Tri-City hurler Happy Phippen, who threw 37 pitches in relief on Friday night, would not have been available on Saturday, but the extra day of rest freed him to pitch June 30 due to pitch-count rules. Phippen, who relieved Gage Kral on Friday, started Sunday’s game for Tri-City.

“The loss on Friday, it was a wakeup call,” Brzeczek said. “We came in thinking it would be a test, but also, part of you assumes to a degree, when you’re playing a team you scored 18 runs on the first time, that you’re going to do it again.

“But Phippen came in late and just shut us down,” Brzeczek continued. “He proceeded to dismantle our entire offense.”

Tri-City’s win, combined with the extra day of rest, made Sunday’s game “kind of a toss-up,” as Brzeczek put it. “I was getting my son (Jack) back to pitch, and they were getting one of their best kids back, too, so it was really a coin toss.”

Homerun Baker came in heads-up on Sunday, though. Two runs in the top of the first, one in the second, and seven in the third put the win bracket champs up 10-0. Four more in the top of the fourth meant Tri-City had to score five in the bottom of the inning just to keep the game going, as any score of 14-4 or worse would mean a rout-rule win by the Baker crew.

Tri-City got the five runs and more, thanks to a couple of clutch hits and what Joe Brzeczek described as “a one-inning defensive meltdown.”

“We made seven errors in the bottom of the fourth,” Joe Brzeczek said. “Just a terrible inning for us defensively, and it led to them scoring nine runs. Mistakes on a lot of normally routine plays, ground ball after ground ball after ground ball, after ground ball.”

The Tri-City rally made it a game again. Homerun Baker recovered, though, getting two runs back in the top of the fifth.

“We had an eight-run lead evaporate last year in a game — and ... I think that was against Tri-City, too,” Joe Brzeczek recalled. “And here we are this year, almost having a 14-run lead evaporate on us.”

“So, yeah, a rough inning,” Brzeczek said, “but to our kids’ credit, we did come back up in the next inning; we put two more runs back on them.”

Tri-City couldn’t close the gap, though it did score the game’s final run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 16-10.

Homerun Baker, now known as the District 6 All-Stars, will play in the first game of the state tournament, at 11:30 a.m. on July 13 in South Baltimore, against District 1.

The Homerun Baker team includes Jacob Jenkins, Jack Brzeczek, Couper Barletta, Ben White, Oliver Cummings, Ben Bohlman, Daniel Smith, Lane Brzeczek, Jeremy Kapela, Jack Mielke, Andrew Fauver, Tatelli Kiehl, and Fin Carter.

{p class=”p1”}Homerun Baker is named after Frank Baker of Trappe (1883-1967), who played 13 seasons in the major leagues from 1908-1922, first with the Philadelphia Athletics and later the New York Yankees. He played his final two seasons in the Bronx with Babe Ruth. Baker’s daughter-in-law, Lois, lived in Trappe until her passing in March; Frank Baker’s home can be found on Main Street in Trappe, less than a block south of the Post Office.

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