Some tears flowed and frustration showed as the New Albany 12U Gold baseball team’s run through the Great Lakes Regional came to an end Aug. 10.
But only a few hours after the Eagles’ 8-0 loss to New Albany, Indiana, in a semifinal in Westfield, Indiana, ending their season two wins short of qualifying for the Little League World Series, a player’s parent tweeted a video of players smiling and laughing while jumping en masse into the pool at their hotel.
“It was a tough loss, it was disappointing, but the boys rebounded pretty quickly,” coach Greg Ecleberry said. “I think they were able to realize once we got off the field, took a few breaths and talked as a team, how proud they are of each other and exactly what we accomplished. It was a region full of outstanding teams. We walked out of there going 2-2 and (having gone) to the semifinal. It’s something the guys will take a lot of pride in.”
Thanks for your support New Albany. Tough loss tonight. But as you can see, the boys have recovered and are ready for next season. Go Eagles!@napls_athletics@NewAlbanyOhio@napls@napls_ms@napls_hs@plaintownshipoh@Naeagles18u@geck121pic.twitter.com/zgw5pfiyer— Mitch Given (@mitchgiven)August 11, 2018
Coming off the program’s first state championship, which New Albany won 9-8 over Boardman on July 28 in North Canton, the Eagles began the regional with an 8-5 loss to Indiana in a second-round game Aug. 6.
The Eagles staved off elimination with wins over Tri-Cities Little League from West Dundee, Illinois (4-0 on Aug. 7) and St. Matthew’s Baseball from Louisville, Kentucky (9-1 on Aug. 9).
Zach Casey and Ben Liebel each had seven hits in the regional to lead New Albany.
The Little League World Series will be held Aug. 16-26 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“It was a big stage — a big stadium, more fans, all the cameras, lots of outside distractions,” Ecleberry said. “I think (by the second game), we had settled in. We stayed patient, got the bat on the ball, got baserunners on and got them in. By the Kentucky game, the kids looked to me like they were as refreshed and focused as they’d been since the state championship. I wasn’t surprised that we played so well.”
Both teams made the opposing starter work hard early in the semifinal, but then Indiana scored five runs in the second inning and three more in the third.
Eagles starter Aidan Booth threw 20 pitches in the first inning and 35 more in the second, when Indiana used five hits, two errors and a hit-by-pitch to take control.
A fielder’s choice, RBI single and error finished out the scoring in the third.
“We worked a lot on the mental approach at the plate and the hits really started coming,” Indiana coach Brian Jackson told the Jeffersonville (Indiana) News and Tribune.
Booth struck out three in 2 1/3 innings, and reliever Charlie Oakleaf struck out two in 2 2/3 innings.
No players from the team will return next year because all of them will be too old to continue Little League, but the well might not be dry for New Albany. The organization’s 11U team also won its state championship in late July.
The 12U team will be honored during the New Albany High School football team’s home opener Sept. 7 against Licking Heights. According to Ecleberry, players and coaches will be recognized between the first and second quarters.
He is confident that won’t be the last time locals hear about the players from this team.
“Most of them plan to play some travel ball next summer,” said Ecleberry, adding that he is stepping down from coaching after a decade of working with either Little League or travel teams. “People will hear from these guys again as they get older.”