Keystone Lions take local Pa. rivalry game in 12U Harley

By DN WRITING STAFF | April 30, 2024

By Rich Bevensee

The 12U championship game was not just about claiming an age group trophy at the Williams Harley Davidson tournament at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

For the combatants, the finale was about bragging rights for all of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Keystone Baseball Club Lions, who ran roughshod over the pool play competition at ‘The Nation’, saw a bunch of familiar faces when Harrisburg neighbor U.S. Elite PA walked into the other dugout for the title game. 

Boys from both teams train at the same Mechanicsburg facility, The Vault, and some of them attend school together. 

But on the field, friendships are put on hold and loyalties lie with team colors. The Lions, in their neon pink uniforms, continued to roll up impressive offensive numbers in the final when they scored eight runs in the second inning and stormed to a 12-8 victory and the 12U championship on Sunday afternoon. 

Blake Keller, whose three-run home run capped the Lions’ eight-run rally, said there is always a mix of emotions when the teams cross paths.

“Yeah there are a lot of emotions,” Keller said. “There is a lot of competitiveness when we play them. I am friends with a lot of them, and there’s a lot of respect across the board.”

Lions coach Will Hoover pointed out that while the teams don’t seek to enter the same tournaments, they do see each other quite a bit during travel season. Last fall the Lions beat Elite in a Perfect Game tournament semifinal game in Newville, Pa.

“There are a lot of relationships on both sides,” Hoover said. “It’s always been a good thing when we meet with something on the line. It’s been exciting on both sides.”

Blake Keller hit a three-run homer in the KBC Lions 12-8 victory over Harrisburg rival U.S Elite PA.

Both ballclubs entered the final 3-0 and enjoying an offensive flurry, having scored 12 runs in their last two pool play games and reaching double figures in their respective semifinal games. The Lions outlasted Morris County Cubs Navy, 11-5, and Elite whipped Diamond Jacks Super 12U, 14-0.

“It’s amazing,” Keller said of his team’s offensive prowess. “We all play as a team and produce runs and that makes winning fun.”

“Go back on GameChanger and look at our scores and you’ll see this happens all the time,” Hoover said. “The kids put in the individual work away from team practice. We’re doing drills, videos, looking at still photos. They are always working on their swing.”

Hoover declined to name a Most Valuable Player after the championship game, but Keller wielded one of the most dangerous bats of the tournament for the Lions, cracking three homers and two doubles in a five-game span. 

His three-run shot cleared the Field 6 scoreboard in left center field, a 240-foot shot which boosted the Lions to a 9-3 lead in the bottom of the second inning. It was Keller’s sixth homer of the spring.

“I’m always happy to give my team a big lead,” Keller said. “I was looking for a pitch and hoping to hit the ball hard somewhere. I had a feeling when I hit it. The key for me is just going up with a good approach and hunting the fastball.”

Elite was first in flexing its offensive muscle when Hayden Haines cranked an opposite-field, solo homer over the right field fence in the first inning. 

Owen Whittaker tied the game with an RBI single in the bottom of the first, but Elite quickly reclaimed the lead when Chase Gustin had an RBI single and Mason Neutzel plated a run with a fielder’s choice for a 3-1 lead. 

The came the bottom of the second inning, in which the Lions sent 11 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on five hits and three errors for a 9-3 lead. Chris Scaringi roped an RBI double, Milez Hobby had a run-scoring single, and after three more unearned runs scored, Keller popped his third homer of the weekend.

Harrisburg, Pa., neighbors U.S. Elite PA and KBC Lions celebrated their meeting in the 12U Williams Harley Davidson championship game.

The Lions added an unearned run in the third before Elite climbed back into the game with a four-run rally in the fourth. Riley Meekins had an RBI single and Neutzel and Aiden Reisinger contributed run-scoring groundouts to make the score 10-7. 

Ian Reed’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the fourth made it 11-7 Lions, but Elite got the run right back in the fifth on Evan Salla’s RBI single.

Whittaker closed the scoring with his second RBI single of the game for a 12-8 lead. 

“I’d rather not name an MVP because I don’t want to single anyone out,” Hoover said. “Everybody had a big day. I think everyone knows they have to contribute and that’s why it works.”

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Comments 1

  1. It’s exciting to watch KBC Lions after knowing how hard the kids are practicing on the field and working hard off the field. Their dedication to develop their baseball skills has shown a big difference so early in the season. Congratulations to the players and their coaches for displaying their dedication to excel. We wish the team continued success and plan to follow them the rest of the season. Good luck and God Bless!

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