Colonie Little League manager Mike McDonough didn’t see any panic in his team when it was no-hit by West Salisbury (Md.) in its third game of the Little League World Series Mid-Atlantic Regional on Monday.
And when Colonie fell behind, 3-0, to Taney Youth Baseball Association of Philadelphia in Tuesday’s game, a contest Colonie needed to win if it wanted to get to the semifinals, McDonough saw his players keeping their heads in the game.
Not succumbing to the pressure helped Colonie overcome that deficit and pull out a 5-3 victory that clinched a semifinal berth.
Now, Colonie and TYBA face off again, with the stakes even higher. The winner of today’s 11 a.m. game will advance to Sunday night’s championship game that will decide who goes to Williamsport, Pa., for the LLWS starting next week. Toms River (N.J.) faces Newark (Del.) National in the 3 p.m. semifinal.
“We’re looking forward to it,” McDonough said Thursday from Bristol, Conn., the site of the regional. “We already played Pennsylvania once, and it was a great game. They’re a great team and well coached. We’re looking to go out and, hopefully, we can play our ‘A’ game. At the end of the day, we’ll see where we stand.”
Colonie went 2-2 in pool play. It opened with a 6-3 win over Northwest Washington last Friday. Two days later, Colonie dropped a 6-4 decision to Toms River. Then it was held hitless by West Salisbury on Monday.
It didn’t look good for Colonie when it trailed by three after two innings.
But Colonie tied the score, 3-3, on Jakob Lemperle’s three-run homer in the third inning. Two innings later, Lemperle hit a tiebreaking RBI triple and later scored on a wild pitch.
“We’ve been down in prior games,” McDonough said. “I told them to keep their heads up and keep doing what you’re doing, and to support each other and stay focused and we’ll be OK. We didn’t get frustrated.
“I told them to keep having good at-bats. If we have good at-bats, we’ll hang in there and put up a couple of runs, and then we have to go out and play defense and make sure they don’t score anymore runs.”
Facing TYBA for the second straight game doesn’t give Colonie that much of an advantage, according to McDonough.
“We’re confident no matter who we play, no matter if we beat them or not,” McDonough said. “We got no-hit the game before. Just getting another game under our belt and getting a win after the game of getting no-hit probably brought the kids’ confidence up a lot more.”
Today’s semifinals will be on ESPN, with the title game on ESPN2. McDonough isn’t worried about his handling the added pressure of having the entire nation watch the game.
“In today’s day and age, everybody has a video phone. You can always be on TV at any point and time with today’s technology,” McDonough said. “I try to keep it realistic. We’re not going to hide away from the cameras. We know about it. But let’s concentrate on what we do well, and we should be alright.”