The Northern Lebanon Little League 12U All-Stars entered Saturday as one of the last two teams still standing after some exciting games in the Section 4. Following wins over Hollidaysburg and State College during the week, Northern Lebanon was forced to again to play Hollidaysburg, the two-time defending Section 4 champion and 2022 Mid-Atlantic Champion. This type of rematch often happens in tournaments that use the double-elimination format.
Defeating Hollidaysburg once was a landmark win for the Northern Lebanon program, but it would be a tall order to win twice over the premier program and host of the tournament. On Friday, Hollidaysburg proved this by responding with a 5-0 victory to give Northern Lebanon its first loss of the tournament.
Under the double-elimination format, Friday’s result set-up a one-game playoff on Saturday, with the winner moving onto next week’s Pennsylvania State Little League Tournament. Northern Lebanon was poised and sent its top pitcher, Chase Norris, to the mound in this must-win game. The young Norris would not shy away from the challenge and would go onto prove why he is being touted as one of the region’s top young arms.
After Norris shut down Hollidaysburg in the Top 1st, Northern Lebanon started the scoring the Bottom 1st courtesy of Ben Kleinfelter’s RBI double. Hollidaysburg would tie the game with an RBI by Bonin. The score would remain tied through two full innings.
The Bottom 3rd would prove to be critical when considering the final outcome of the game. Northern Lebanon was down to its final out of the inning when the team’s leadoff hitter Braden Demler walked in his second at-bat of the day. Tyler Hornberger followed up the two out walk with a single. Norris then doubled, scoring Demler to make the score 2-1. Riding the wave of momentum, Kleinfelter hit a liner to center to score Hornberger and Norris. By the time Hollidaysburg was able to get the third out, Northern Lebanon had raced to a 4-1 lead.
That would be all Northern Lebanon would need, as Norris continued to deal and the defense behind him was stellar. In the six innings, Norris surrendered one run on two hits. He struck out five, walking only two, on seventy-two pitches. Defensively, Nolan Anspach was a star in support of his pitcher, as the second baseman recorded eight put outs on the afternoon.
In the 5th, Northern Lebanon’s Julius Martinez drove in an insurance run when his hit to left scored Jacob Anspach. This was the fifth and final run of the game. The final score was 5-1.
Following the historic win, Northern Lebanon head coach Rick Hornberger said of their chances to win today, “When you have a pitcher like Norris you know you are going to be in every game he pitches, he is that good.”
Recognizing that it takes more than just solid pitching to win, Hornberger went on to praise the defensive efforts of his team, saying, “Nolan Anspach was incredible today. We honestly probably don’t win that game if he isn’t playing like that at second base”.
After losing to Hollidaysburg on Friday, Hornberger addressed what was different in Saturday’s win, “The timely hitting is what we lacked in the previous game.” Among those timely hits was Kleinfelter’s two out, two RBI double, to which the coach spoke of the moment, “Kleinfelter was huge all day and the way the guys got on base with two outs was the mentality we need to have to keep advancing.”
On the day, Kleinfelter led the offensive efforts with his three RBI on two hits, including the two out two-RBI double that broke the game open in the 3rd inning. As a team, Northern Lebanon recorded six hits.
Hornberger summed it up by saying, “It was a total team effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of the entire team.”
Northern Lebanon will now prepare to play in the Pennsylvania Little League Championship Tournament. The event will consist of the eight section winners from across the state. Hosted by the Newtown Edgemont Little League, play will begin on Wednesday, July 26th.
While our research team is still trying to determine if the 2023 Northern Lebanon team is the first from Lebanon County to play in the State Tournament, records indicate that they will be vying to be the first ever State Champions from the county. With that, they will have all of Lebanon County cheering them on when they take the field for their first game on Wednesday at 1:00 pm.
For more, read our previous article: Northern Lebanon Little League Looks to Advance to States
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