MOUNT AIRY — Four County’s 8-10 All-Stars posed in front of the scoreboard in center field while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blared over a sound system in the background.
They were, in fact, champions But it didn’t come easy.
A battle-tested Four County team erased an early deficit against Brunswick to win 7-4 and clinch the District 2 Little League tournament title at Russell Windsor Field.
The two sides met June 30 in the opening round of the tournament. Four County came out victorious 11-3.
From the start of the tourney to his team’s title-clinching win, manager Pat Kearns attested to his team’s resilient mentality.
“They’ve been strong all tournament long,” he said. “They battle, when they get in trouble they don’t panic … they don’t give up too much and … that’s what they’ve been doing all tournament long.”
Four County found itself down 2-0 in the first inning. Starting pitcher Caleb Kearns walked three straight batters, and Brunswick’s Jack Via delivered a two-run single to open the scoring.
It didn’t take long for the All-Stars to answer, however. Kearns helped his own cause one half-inning later with a bloop single that drifted just over the infield into right field. Cooper Thompson and Cody Rogers followed with back-to-back RBIs, giving Four County a 3-2 lead.
Kearns and Rogers led Four County with two hits apiece.
An RBI groundout by Brunswick’s Justin Ricketts tied the game a 3-3 in the second inning, and the next four innings were a back-and-forth grind.
Four County’s defense proved to be the difference.
Kearns escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third inning. And holding a 6-4 lead in the fifth inning, with two runners in scoring position and no outs on the board, Brunswick’s comeback bid was cut short.
Pitcher Collin Doyle provided relief for Justin Witmer and forced a thrilling 1-3-2 double play at the plate and a fly out to center field.
It was Four County’s signature moment.
“For a group of 10-year-olds, the fact that they keep their heads in the game and don’t let the moment get too much of them has been a testament … to the kids themselves,” Kearns said.
Despite frustrations and calls that they felt didn’t go their way, Kearns continually provided encouragement to his players in the dugout and on the field.
“At this age, you’re a little emotional,” he said.“You’ve got to just try to keep em focused on the fact that there’s another at-bat and that they’re teammates are going to pick them up.”
Four County tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth inning to stretch the lead to 7-4.
Doyle retired three of four Brunswick batters on the mound in the final half-inning and the Four County dugout erupted with cheers once the last out was confirmed.
The win marked an undefeated district run for the All-Stars — they scored 51 runs throughout four tournament games, including a 26-5 rout over Mountain Valley.
Four County’s summer continues in the state tournament with South Baltimore Little League (District 4) as its host. The tourney begins July 14.
Kearns said he hopes his team can continue its moment heading forward.
“They continue to grow and show me that they’re a strong team,” he said. “They just love the game of baseball. They continue to come out and play, every practice they’re into it. It’s a testament to all of the hard work they’ve put in and they continue to grow as a team both on the field and at the plate.”