The 2015 Cal Ripken 12U/Major 70 World Series got off to a groovy start Friday evening at The Ripken Experience Aberdeen Powered by Under Armour youth baseball complex.
Mid-Atlantic coach Stephen Mochulski of East Brandywine, Pa., can verify that.
It wasn't such a groovy start for the Harford County host team from Hickory, which lost the opening game 14-1.
Mochulski won a first-ever coach dance-off, moments after all 18 teams and host families for the eight international teams were announced.
"I was unaware, usually the manager Dennis Reardon takes care of all the administration stuff and he called me out. I guess he had something to do, so I know he put me up to it," Mochulski said. "Never been in a dance-off before, I've seen it on TV, my kids watch it, my son does it, but I haven't participated in one, so that was my first ever."
Mochulski wowed both the fans and dance-off judge, Ryan Heller, head of baseball operations for Ripken Baseball, with a worm move on the turf of Cal Sr.'s Yard. That move claimed victory.
"Our catcher does a great worm and he does it and I said well heck, if he can do it, I was a catcher once when I was 12 years old, so I'll try it," Mochulski said.
With the dancing out of the way, focus turned to the players and four skills challenge finals: Turn Two, Golden Spikes, Outfield Relay and the Home Run Derby.
The good news continued for the team from East Brandywine in the Golden Spikes base running challenge, where two groups of runners race home to second to home, twice.
The foursome of Peter Kern, Spencer Mochulski, Cole Rupp and Lonnie White won the race in 25.41, beating Mexico's runners who finished in 26.13.
In the Turn Two challenge, where a series of double plays is turned among six infielders, the boys from the Republic of Korea finished in 27.01, easily beating the team from Manoa, Hawaii, which finished in 34.88. Korea's winning fielders were Jaewoong Jang, Jaeyoung Jang, Seonghun Jung, Jisgung Kim, Sangmin Lee and Soochan Son.
In the Outfield Relay, the best team was Puerto Rico, beating Maryland State Champion Charles County in the finals.
The Home Run Derby champion had been a Harford County-held honor for the past two series, but that changed with a few swings off Blake McCain's bat.
McCain, a lanky catcher/outfielder for West Raleigh, NC, (Southeast Region) totaled 21 points from his eight swings in the finals. The total was 10 points more than runner-up Rafael Macias of Illinois Valley, Ill.
It wasn't McCain's first derby.
"When I was 11 years old (last year) in the Southeast Regional Championship I came in second and I was nervous going out there just like I was today," McCain said. "So I just felt confident in myself and my coach pitching to me and I went out there and hit some bombs."
And without further ado, the most well-known mother in baseball, Vi Ripken, threw out the first pitch and the series was under way.
Hickory, trying to repeat the success of last year's Hickory host team, wasn't so fortunate in the series opener. East Brandywine, which held a 2-1 lead through four innings, blew open the game with 10 hits and 12 runs in the final two innings to win easily, 14-1.
Chad Britt had three hits and three RBIs to pace East Brandywine, which pounded out 15 hits, five for extra bases. Jack Ginsburg and Peter Kern each had three hits and two RBIs for the winners.
Hickory's lone run came across in the fourth. Charlie Hafer singled and eventually scored on a double steal. Tre Jordan had two hits to lead Hickory and Evan Wallace added a double.
Chase Reardon pitched four innings for the win and Austin Carr pitched into the fifth in taking the loss.
The series will continue with pool play games Saturday through Wednesday. Saturday and Wednesday play begins at 12:30 p.m., while Sunday through Tuesday action begins at 10 a.m. All games are scheduled for play at Cal Sr.'s Yard and Nationals Field. Saturday's crossover international play does not count toward the pool play standings.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament semifinals round on Thursday. Semifinal winners will compete next Friday in the U.S. (8 p.m.) and International (5:30 p.m.) championship games, with winners advancing onto the World Championship game, set for 8 p.m. Aug. 1.