LITTLE LEAGUE: Abington vying for state 8-10 championship Sunday

·3 min read

Jul. 31—When the all-star team was picked in early June, manager John Kwiatkowski thought he had a pretty good squad of eight to 10-year-olds.

Not sure that he, or anyone on the team, could have expected this kind of success.

Undefeated through every stage so far, Abington will go for a state championship and a postseason sweep when it plays losers' bracket survivor Morrisville, a 5-4 winner in seven innings over Council Rock Newtown, on Sunday at 4 p.m. in the double-elimination tournament at West Point Little League in Greensburg.

"I knew we'd be very competitive, but they have far exceeded expectations of where we thought we'd be right now," Kwiatkowski said. "The best part, every game they keep stepping up and getting better."

The team rolled through pool play in the District 17 tournament, winning all six games, then swept the two games in the championship round.

Three straight wins at the Section 5 tournament vaulted Abington into the state event — the last step for players in the age group, where the team's success has continued to grow with three more wins.

"Our defense has been incredible," Kwiatkowski said. "All around, our defense has been fantastic, and we've been hitting the ball, putting it in play with very few strikeouts. And the pitching has been great. Pitching is obviously key when you get into these tournaments and everyone has been contributing.

"It's been spectacular."

Up and down the lineup, the team has produced. In the last six games, seven players have contributed at least one multi-hit game.

Bench players have picked it up, too, keeping pressure on opponents.

"I told all the guys in the beginning, this is a process," Kwiatkowski said. "Our goal is to become better baseball players through it. Every game, every player has stepped up. The progress is fun to watch with this group of players."

For Kwiatkowski, it's especially fun since his son, Jake, has mashed the ball, including a 4-for-4 effort in the winner's bracket semifinal, as well as being tough on the mound.

It's the evolution of players like Patrick Donahue, who has had two games with at least four RBIs, that have made the journey special, too.

"I picked him up for my team in the Little League draft this year," Kwiatkowski said. "His progress from the beginning of April to now is incredible."

So is watching the team build chemistry.

"They all pick each other up. Very supportive," Kwiatkowski said. "One kid's getting down, another's picking him up.

"Brady Nalevanko is always encouraging, full of energy and keeps the kids up. Some older kids have been supportive of younger players. We have one 8-year-old, three 9s and the rest are 10s, but even our substitutes are coming into games and getting hits."

The recipe for success thus far has been one with few ingredients.

"I tell them before every game we go play our game, nobody else's," Kwiatkowski said. "Play our game no matter who we are playing, who is pitching, what the circumstances are. Give it 100% and if we do we'll be competitive with anybody. Winning has been the result of that.

"It's a lot to keep a calm mind and mentally stay in the game. Just keep your chin up and keep playing. If we do that, I think we have a good chance to bring the state banner back to Ackerly Field."

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