Neil Weigle guided a Four County Little League all-star team of 10-11-year olds to a district championship last summer, and a rare trip to the state tournament.
The participants involved in that experience are joining forces to make another run starting this week, albeit one level up, when the District 2 11-12 tourney begins.
Weigle, the manager of last year's 10-11 district champs, is the skipper for this year's 11-12 squad made up of the top players from Four County's in-house regular season.
The organization, based in Mount Airy, draws from Carroll and Frederick counties. Five of the 11-12 All-Stars this year hail from Carroll — Cole Anderson, Garrett Averell, Brady Etzel, Kenny Humbel, and Evan Schwartz.
That quintet played together on the 10-11 team a year ago, one that finished third at the state tournament and became just the second Four County team in more than 20 years to win a district crown. The rest of their former 10-11 teammates are with them as well, and Weigle said they're ready to compete at the next level.
"Team chemistry is huge," Weigler said. "We had it last year and we're hoping it carries over again this year."
Frederick County's 11-12 All-Stars are Jake Campbell, Stephen Curry, Garhett Dickenson, Colby Jaeb, Justin Nicholls, Chase Rokisky, Evan Shultz, and Eli Weigle. Shultz is the lone newcomer to this unit from a year ago.
Four County faces Upper Montgomery County Little League on Tuesday night at 6 at South Germantown Field, one of four first-round games on tap in the double-elimination district tournament.
Brunswick, East Frederick, Frederick National, Mountain Valley, Lower Montgomery County, and Thurmont are the other teams in the district tourney.
The second round is set for Thursday, and the semifinals are slated for July 1-2. The championship game, which pits the consolation bracket's final team against the top remaining team, is set for July 5.
The District 2 champion advances to the state tournament, which begins July 15 in Fruitland on the Eastern Shore. Win there and it's onto the Mid-Atlantic Regional tourney, which includes state champs from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington D.C.
Regional champions advance to the Little League World Series, which takes place in Williamsport, Pa. The series begins Aug. 17.
First things first, of course.
Neil Weigle said he hopes having a team filled with all-star experience will pay off in the older age division, which means bigger, stronger players and a faster-paced style of play.
"We talked to the entire team, and we talked about it," Weigle said. "We hope they don't take this year lightly. Hopefully they understand they have to fight for it again. For some of them, this is their third or fourth district all-star team. Hopefully that experience carries over."
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Last year's 10-11 team scored its share of runs during its postseason journey. Four County beat Mountain Valley 18-4 in the district semifinals before dusting Lower Montgomery 15-2 in the finals to go 4-0 in the tournament.
The 10-11 All-Stars outscored their district foes by a combined 59-16, but ran into tougher competition at the state tournament in Elkton.
Four County lost its opener to Northwest (D.C.) 14-4, then won three straight games before being eliminated by Conococheague 11-2.
Weigle said he expects Etzel, Humble, and Eli Weigle to handle the bulk of the pitching this time around. But Four County's players should likely be prepared to hear their name called to pitch at any moment, the manager said.
"You never know what's going to happen," Weigle said. "They're ready to fill whatever role we need. ... You have to figure it takes at least eight runs to win a Little League game. We're a confident team, so hopefully it translates on the field."