Junior League all-stars advance to regional tournament

The Frederick County National Junior League all-star baseball team won the Virginia State Junior League Tournament on Tuesday and will be playing in this weekend's Southeast Regional Tournament. Courtesy photo

The Frederick County National Little League is sending a team back to the regional tournament for the second straight year.

The Frederick County National Junior League all-star baseball team – composed of 13 and 14 year olds – won the Virginia State Junior League Tournament on Tuesday afternoon, qualifying the group of 12 players for this weekend’s Southeast Regional Tournament.

The same group of boys won the state championship in the Intermediate 50/70 division last summer, the first state title for the Frederick County National Little League, which is based out of Stephens City.

“It’s a real big deal,” team manager Frank Ritter said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “I guess it’s like only the second time Frederick County National Little League has won the state tournament, so it’s a pretty big thing.”

After claiming the District 3 Junior League tournament championship earlier this month with a 5-2 win over Front Royal, Frederick County National qualified for the 15-team, double-elimination state tournament that began last Thursday.

Frederick County National opened the state tournament with a 9-0 victory over District 16 champ Fauquier, the first of four straight wins to open the tournament. Victories over Bristol (12-2), Olive Branch (16-6) and Virginia Beach (11-0) followed, putting Frederick County National into the championship game against Tuckahoe on Tuesday in Pound.

Tuckahoe, which had lost its opening-round game to Bristol and needed to beat Frederick County National twice Tuesday, fended off elimination with an 11-9 victory in the first meeting before Frederick County National rebounded with a 9-8 win to lock up a return trip to the Southeast Regional.

“They have each other’s back and they play hard. They don’t quit,” said Ritter, who added that the team has embraced a strong family bond. “That last game, the championship game, we were down by one run with two outs and our number nine batter was up to bat and he hit a double to win the game. He was one of the kids that we sub in and out and that’s what I try to tell all the kids is that everybody, all 12 kids, contribute some way and somehow on this team and they find a way to win.”

The next step for Frederick County National takes the team to Greenville, South Carolina, for the Southeast Regional Tournament, which begins Friday and features fellow state champions from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesee and West Virginia. Frederick County National, which has a bye on Friday, will open up Saturday against the winner of Friday’s game between the state champions from North Carolina and South Carolina. Game time is 10 a.m.

The winner of the seven-team Southeast Regional advances to the Junior League Baseball World Series on Aug. 16-23 in Taylor, Michigan. Frederick County National Little League is seeking its first World Series appearance.

“Early in our season that’s what we set our team goal as,” Ritter said.

“We had four goals – to win districts, to win states, then to win the Southeast Regional and try to win the World Series. … That was our goal at the beginning of the season and so far they’re keeping up with it.”

Rob Sprague, vice president of the Frederick County National Little League, said players from the Junior League all-star team have to pay their own way to South Carolina this weekend. Sprague said donations to pay for the trip are being accepted and can be sent to the FCNLL at P.O. Box 1342 in Stephens City, VA, 22655.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com