For the first time since 2007, the Arbutus 11-12 Little League all-stars captured the District 4 championship to advance to the Maryland State Tournament.
It’s also the first time since then that the state tournament will be held in the cozy confines of Arbutus Middle School.
The double-elimination five-team tournament begins with three games July 20, followed by the opening ceremonies at 5 p.m.
Host Arbutus earned a first-round bye and won’t play its first game until July 21 at noon against the winner of Division 1, Conococheague and Division 2 winner Brunswick.
Coach Kevin Lober expects some outstanding play on the Arbutus Middle School diamond during the tournament, which is slated to conclude July 26.
The winner earns a spot in the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Bristol, Conn., Aug 2-11.
“If you want to see some good baseball at the purest level, this is it,” Lober said. “Even if we hadn’t gotten there, I would have been watching. It’s going to be a phenomenal week of baseball.”
Arbutus earned a state tournament berth by sweeping three games in the District 4 tournament in Southern Maryland, outscoring its foes, 32-5, while keeping his wife, Kathy, busy with the scorebook.
Ricky Gruby pitched a complete game in the five-inning slaughter rule victory over South Baltimore.
Jacob Baney twirled a six-inning complete-game gem in the second game, aided by excellent glovework from C.J. Baker in right field.
Jake Perry and Baker shared mound duties in the title game for Lober and assistants Carl Baker Jr. and Lenny Perry.
“Every kid did something to produce the championship,” said Lober, who has been involved in Arbutus Little League for eight seasons.
Of the 12 players selected from the Arbutus Little League 11-12 in-house program, Lober’s Southwestern Car Care championship squad produced four of them, including his son, Bailey Lober (1B), Baney (P, 3B, OF), Nick Palacorolla (SS) and Tyler Lewis (OF).
Lewis and Baker are the fastest players on a squad that also includes Casey Dixon (OF), Zach Bock (C, 2B), T.J. Hebron (OF), Zach Smith (2B) and Robert Sawyer Jr. (C, 2B).
“Each one of the kids brings something special to the table,” the coach said. “We’ve really got a special group of kids this year, Lober said. “They laugh and joke and really get along.”
That changed in the district tournament, after Lober and the coaches made sure the youngsters were more focused.
“They came to every game in the districts, and the light switch went on,” he said. “They played lights-out baseball.”
The players bought into the fact they were going to play different positions than they were accustomed to during the in-house season.
“We told them, ‘What you have to do, you have to do for each other.’” Lober said. “I could not be any more proud of these boys.”