Kutno, Poland — The KMC Red Tails Little League Baseball All-Star team’s quest for the Little League World Series ended last week. The team was unable to advance out of pool play against some of the best young ball players in all of Europe. In a field crowded with the most teams ever to qualify for the European Regional Tournament, the Red Tails began the tournament on July 15, with a game against France.
Seeking to make a statement early, the Red Tails led with their ace south paw, Andrew Smyth, who shut down the French champions for the first two innings. Relievers Brett Parker and Josh Yosfan then closed the door, combining for another two innings of shutout baseball as the Red Tails completed the mercy-rule shortened victory 13-0.
Hard-hitting center fielder Damon Nelson sparked the offense with a triple off the fence, and timely defense across the board, including two tough catches by left fielder Terry White, which sealed the KMC victory. A scrappy Belgian squad turned out to be more of a challenge than the Red Tails anticipated, and after ace starter Ry Yates and the offence jumped out to an early 5-0 lead, the tide began to turn. Ultimately, not even a stellar 4-hit performance (2 home runs and 2 doubles) by clean-up man Brandon Reynolds, stout defense and tough relief pitching by Ben Lenahan, Damon Nelson and Mason Peace, who each made their first appearance on the mound in the post season, was enough to overcome a sudden explosive Belgian offense, which amassed 17 runs in the 3rd, 4th and 5th innings, earning a 17-10
With their backs against the wall, the Red Tails came out fighting on Thursday against the defending European Regional Champs, Czech Republic.
Turning to their two aces to hold the Czechs down, KMC started fast with Ry Yates, who went for two solid innings, allowing only 3 runs and smashing a solid RBI double in the gap to score speedster Gabriel Falcon.
Knowing they were close, the Red Tails handed the ball to dominant lefty Smyth who punished the Czech batters over the next three innings, allowing only 1 additional run. Superb defense behind the dish by catcher Cody Schwope and up the middle by short stop Jackson Leech, along with several highlight-reel plays by Carter Woelkers at second base helped keep the game within reach, and together the Red Tails limited an explosive Czech squad that had scored 37 runs in their last two games to only 4. Ultimately, though, the offense could not generate any more runs and KMC lost 4-1.
The Czech Republic team would go on to win the tournament for a second consecutive season, outscoring their other opponents by a combined
total of 60-9, with no other team allowing fewer than 11 runs — a testament to the spirit of the Red Tails, and their “never quit” attitude.
Even though this season ended earlier than they hoped, Manager Jason Ralph expressed pride in all of the players for their work ethic and effort during the season, and said he is already looking forward to next year.