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Sports Article
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Upper Perk U10 Captures Cal Ripken State Title
Written by Staff Report

            Upper Perk certainly didn't look like a newcomer.

            Down two runs to defending southeast state champion and host East Brandywine last Wednesday night, Upper Perk stormed back in the top of the third

Upper Perk U10 Cal Ripken State Champions

with three runs. The rally turned the tide of the game and gave Upper Perk a lead it wouldn't relinquish en route to a 10-6 victory, and the Valley's first Cal Ripken state champ in its inaugural season.

            "No question this group is special because of their work ethic," said Upper Perk manager Matt Weiss. "They are certainly very talented, but they truly enjoy working to get better."

Unlike past seasons, where Upper Perk's travel teams from 8-12 participated in random tournaments, this year Upper Perk's Youth Baseball Association decided to partake in Cal Ripken Baseball, a division of the Babe Ruth League. The move gave teams a chance to compete for titles at the district, state, regional and national level.

            And Upper Perk's U10 team made the most of its first season. Coached by   Weiss, Bobby Saeger, Todd Brunner, Brian Godshall and Justin Dice, the team had early summer season success, capturing tourney titles in Skippack, Boyertown and Upper Perk's home tournament. Those victories parlayed into a Cal Ripken district title at Boyertown to earn Upper Perk a spot in the southeast state tournament in Downingtown last week. This week, the team travels to South Plainfield, NJ to take part in the 2018 Middle Atlantic Region Tournament with a berth in the national tournament at stake.

            In states, Upper Perk went 2-1 in pool play for the north, defeating Chestnut Hill (7-0) and Langhorne (22-7) before falling to BYC, 12-4. In the subsequent single-elimination play, Upper Perk's title run started with a 5-0 shutout of Glenside, 10-0 rout of Doylestown and an 11-6 nailbiter over defending northeast state champion Nether-Swarthmore to set-up the title tilt against defending southeast state champion East Brandywine.

            Upper Perk fell behind early in the state title game, taking a 3-0 deficit into the top of the second. They got on the board thanks to a Jordan Dice single, Tice Hallman groundout that moved the runner, followed by a Jackson Long RBI single off the pitching rubber that bounced into centerfield.

            The team took the lead in the third inning and didn't look back from there, bolstered by two-strike basehits from Xavier Navarette and Owin Brunner, and a bunt for a hit from leadoff man Ben Godshall. Navarette and Brunner both stole home to tie up the game, 3-3, and Brody Weiss put the team ahead with his RBI base knock to third base.

            Upper Perk added some insurance with a three-run fourth inning as Navarette walked, and Godshall later added an infield hit. Weiss plated two runs with a hit to right field, and Dice's RBI double to center gave the visitors a 7-3 lead.

            Upper Perk opened up their one-run lead after five innings with a three-run sixth inning that led to the eventual 10-6 final. In that sixth frame, Shane Leh led off with a walk and was moved by Godshall's bunt for a hit and another single by Weiss. Zane Saeger's bloop to left drove in two runs, and Dice laid down a textbook bunt to load the bases before Hallman drew a walk to bring in the team's final run.

            On the mound, Dice picked up the win with five innings of work, scattering nine hits. Godshall came in for the sixth to hurl a spotless inning of relief. Other solid pitching during the tournament came from reliable lefty and heavy hitter Ryan Sink, Saeger, Brunner and Weiss. Defensively, the team got a boost at third base by Aidan Hunter and Logan O'Donnell, the latter of whom shared duties behind the plate throughout states. Hunter went 3-3 with three runs scored and an RBI in pool play against Langhorne, and O'Donnell came up big against BYC with a double, stolen base and run scored.

            "One of the biggest keys to the title run was outstanding pitching both from starters and relievers," Weiss said. "It certainly helps to score runs like we did and give our pitchers a little breathing room, though."

            Weiss said he first got the inkling his team was of state championship caliber at the Upper Perk tournament earlier in July. The majority of the teams there qualified for states, as well as four of the five teams Upper Perk faced. They handled the competition well, 10-running every team it faced, including in the final. 

            Upper Perk will open regional play today with a 1:30 p.m. game against Southern NJ and a 6:30 p.m. game against Western NY, with a game tomorrow against Northeastern New York. Upper Perk's pool play will end Saturday with a 5:30 p.m. game against Northern NJ. If they qualify, quarterfinals and semifinals will follow Sunday, with the championship game Monday at 11 a.m.

            "Our goals are always the same," Weiss said. "Prepare these kids to step onto a varsity baseball field. In doing that, we hope that we are also giving them life lessons that can be used the rest of their lives on and off the field."






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