DUBOIS — A year after winning a state championship and qualifying for the Junior League World Series, Elk-McKean’s All-Stars are back for another playoff run, this time at the Senior League level.
The E-M team, which features players from Kane, Johnsonburg, Wilcox and Ridgway, knocked off DuBois in a best of three series to win Pennsylvania’s District 10 and qualify for the state tournament, which begins Wednesday at Showers Field in DuBois.
Ordinarily, district winners would need to prevail through a sectional tournament to reach the state level, but there were only two teams in the section (and district) from the area — Elk-McKean and DuBois.
The team took game one against DuBois 7-4, and then in game two, overcame a 1-0 deficit in the game’s final inning with a six-run frame to win 6-3 and take the District 10 crown.
“I think everyone is doing their part,” head coach Casey Zimmerman said. “Everyone is gelling well, and the kids have come together quickly.”
Close calls are nothing new for most of this roster, which includes 11 players from last year’s run to the Junior League World Series in Taylor, Mich. During the Eastern Regional tournament, the E-M stars posted back-to-back walk-off victories against Ridgewood, N.J. and Milton-Georgetown, Del. to secure the regional crown.
Then, in the first round of the Junior League World Series, Pennsylvania’s champions fell 2-1 in extra innings to a team from California, and were eventually knocked out of the tournament.
Those experiences are going to be helpful during preparation, Zimmerman says, especially since his roster is one of, if not the youngest in the upcoming state tournament.
“Since we’ve been on both ends of the stick on walk-offs, we’ve experienced what it takes to be on the winning end and on the losing end,” Zimmerman said. “It all comes down to who executes the most in each game, and I feel our kids are prepared to do that.”
In addition to those experiences, the roster also features a trio of 16 year olds — Dalton Stahli, Carson Whiteman, Reese Novosel — who bring their own wisdom and leadership at the Senior League level. Those three fit in well with the composition of the team.
“Because of the experience the kids have from last year, plus adding the new players and how they’re mixing together, everyone is gelling well,” Zimmerman said. “We’re mostly built the same — we have athletic kids and speed, and we have a lot of kids with pitching experience.”
The team is confident going into the state tournament, but, with so many close calls in the past two years, knows nothing will be easy.
The tournament begins Wednesday and runs through July 14. Elk-McKean will be taking on Section 1’s team from Titusville in Wednesday’s nightcap, which is slated for 8 p.m.
“We know now that anything is possible… We were able to (make the World Series) last year, so our kids have a good mindset,” Zimmerman said. “You have to play your best ball, and you can’t have any bad days. It’s a challenge, but our kids have shown they’re ready. They’re mature baseball players.
“We’re going to keep our formula from last year — put your head down, do what you need to do on defense, throw strikes and get on base.”
Team members are Domenic Allegretto, Kaden Dennis, Jefferson Freeburg, Camron Marciniak, Collin Porter, Caden Smiley, Dalton Stahli, Ethan Wells, Aiden Zimmerman, Luke Zimmerman, Luke Ely, Harley Morris, Reese Novosel and Carson Whiteman.
The team is managed by Casey Zimmerman, and his assistant coaches are Mike Porter and Russ Transue.