Pitch counts in Little League can be ominous.
They can hang over a team and young pitcher as the game progresses and the outs become more elusive. They require a certain amount of strategy, mixed with an element of luck, to toss a complete game.
In Saturday's District 12 Major Baseball championship, Newberry's arms were put to the test after gutting out an impressive win Friday night at Lamade Stadium to force a winner-take-all contest against Hepburn-Lycoming Saturday at Volunteer Stadium.
Despite needing the team's ace to force the extra game, Newberry's staff was experienced after winning seven consecutive games through the losers' bracket.
And the experience shined as Taylor Askey and Damone Clark combined to give up seven hits, helping Newberry to a 9-4 win to claim the league's first Major Baseball District 12 title since 1993.
"At the end of the game we had all of the confidence," Newberry's Draig Ruff said. "Our pitchers, Damon and Tyler, helped a lot coming out an advancing us."
"We lost our second game of the tournament and had to win seven in a row," Newberry coach Lester Loner said. "We relied on a bunch of kids for pitching and that helped in the end."
Both pitchers benefited from outstanding defense, with Clark receiving a boost moments after entering when Torren Potts snagged a line drive and doubled a runner off of first. The double play ended a fifth-inning rally after two consecutive doubles scored a run for Hepburn-Lycoming.
"Tyler (Askey) was called on before and that gave him the confidence to go today," Loner said.
The top of Newberry's lineup set the tone early, undoing Montoursville's two-run first by connecting with a triple and three doubles to open the bottom of the first.
Draig Ruff lead-off with the first of two triples, finishing the contest going 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
Ruff also highlighted Newberry patience at the plate. Of the team's 12 hits, eight came with two strikes including Ruff's lead-off triple and Potts home run in the second.
"We worked hard on that," Lester said of two-strike hitting. "We tell the kids to keep their confidence and stay within themselves. It doesn't matter if you have no strikes or two, you have to think you can hit the ball."
Once on board in the bottom of the first, Ruff didn't have to wait long once Potts sparked a run of three straight doubles. All four players scored, giving Newberry a three-run cushion at the conclusion of the first.
"I'm the one that has to get things started," Ruff said. "I get it going so we can score runs."
The runs continued to come for Newberry, which flipped the order one batter into the second. The top of the order continued to produce as Potts homered, and Cody Shimp and Ethen Stryker followed with a triple and double, respectively.
All told, Newberry's first four hitters combined to go 9 of 13, scoring nine runs and batting in five more.
"We came out thinking we would have to hit and score a lot of runs," Loner said. "We had everybody hitting the ball today. It seemed to carry over from last night."
Hepburn Lycoming responded quickly to its first loss of the tournament by posting two runs in the top of the first inning. Kiess and Dickey reached safely thanks to a walk and fielding error. Once on base, both runners capitalized off the early mistake by advancing on a passed ball, and later scoring when Snyder belted a single into the left-center field gap.
Hepburn Lycoming 200 011-4 7 0
Newberry 430 20X-9 12 2
Owen Keiss, Wyatt Chestnut (4) and Chestnut, Keiss (4). Tyler Askey, Damon Clark (5) and Draig Ruff. WP Ashkey. LP Keiss.
Top Hepburn Lycoming hitters: Keiss 1-3, home run, 2 runs. Top Newberry hitters: Ruff 2-3, 2 runs, 2 3B; Torren Potts 3-4, home run, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 runs; Cody Shimp 2-3, 2B, 3B, 2 runs, RBI; Ethen Stryker 2-3, 2 2 2B, 2 RBI.