BRUNSWICK — Nathan Chappell didn’t want a bad memory from this year’s District 2 Little League Tournament. So, faced with the possibility of elimination against host Brunswick on Sunday, he and his Frederick National teammates got together with the coaching staff for a mutual pep talk before the start of the game.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Frederick National had lost to Brunswick at Robert B. Staley Stadium in Frederick.
“We didn’t want to remember losing in a championship game when we get older,” Chappell said. “We wanted something different. We wanted something good.”
The pep talk worked, and Frederick National avoided that nightmarish scenario.
Behind Kaden Hnath’s complete-game four-hitter, it defeated Brunswick 4-2 for the district championship.
“Yesterday, we weren’t hitting the ball, and we weren’t making the plays in the field,” Chappell said. “We turned it around today.”
With the win, Frederick National got an added bonus. Since the league is hosting the Little League state tournament, which begins on Saturday at Staley Stadium, Frederick National gets home-field advantage.
“Yeah, I get to watch a few games before we have to play,” Frederick National manager Danny Miller said. Frederick National has a first-round bye and won’t play until next Sunday.
It’s been 21 years since Frederick National got to play in the state tournament on its home field. Frederick National, with Miller as manager, won the 1998 District 2 crown and played at Staley Stadium, losing to eventual state champion Hughesville.
In a way, Logan Keepers, Frederick National’s shortstop-pitcher, likes the idea of playing at home in the state tournament.
“I also play on a travel ball team,” he said. “It gets to be kind of a pain sometimes, having to travel all the time.”
Keepers will make one exception to that assessment, should Frederick National make a successful run in the state tournament and earn a berth in the Mid-Atlantic Regional.
“I would like to travel to [Bristol] Connecticut, where the regionals are played,” he said. “That would be exciting.”
In Sunday’s game, where Frederick National’s fortunes made a quick turnaround, Hnath was in control on the mound. He threw the maximum 85 pitches allowed, yielding one earned run. He struck out five and walked one.
“I was getting a little tired there at the end,” Hnath said. “It was also getting hot, so when I would head back to the dugout, I would always get something to drink.”
Miller was glad Hnath got the chance to go the distance on the mound.
“He pitched the game of his life,” he said. “He had great control, but I didn’t think he would hold Brunswick to just two runs in this game. They’re a strong hitting team. They came to play.”
Brunswick’s two runs came in the top of the third inning. Nick Piermarini singled up the middle for one run. The other run scored on an error.
Frederick National tied the score at 2 in the bottom of third, thanks to an RBI single from Chappell and a Brunswick error. It took the lead in the fourth as Keepers singled to right-center to score one run, and an error led to another.
Keepers finished with two hits, including a double, and an RBI. Chappell had two hits with an RBI.
“We took it right to the end,” Brunswick manager Cody Bechtol said. “Frederick National made the plays.”
Ethan Houck led Brunswick with two hits.
8-10 Little League state tournament
Brunswick 9, Conococheague 3: Cole Howington led Brunswick in a winners bracket game at South Baltimore Little League with two hits. Carter Vinar, Mason Barry and Luke Barnhouse each had two hits.
Vinar was the winning pitcher. Brunswick faces Berlin at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in the winners bracket final.