Elk-McKean Junior League all-stars to play for world title
The Elk-McKean Junior All-Stars are headed to the Little League World Series.
The group of boys ages 13 and 14 from Kane, Ridgway, Johnsonburg, and Wilcox defeated the Delaware champs, Georgetown / Cape Henlopen, 3-2 on Wednesday to win the Junior League Baseball Eastern Regional title.
Elk-McKean will now head to Taylor, Michigan to compete in the Little League World Series. That tournament will see 12 teams – six United States, six international – compete for the world title.
After winning the Pennsylvania State Title in July, Elk-McKean went 4-0 during the Eastern Regional, held in Freehold, N.J., to bring home the title. They defeated Freehold, N., 4-0, Ridgely, MD 19-11, and Ridgewood, NJ, 6-5, before beating Delaware on a walk-off squeeze bunt on Wednesday.
Elk-McKean’s roster is made up of three players from Kane, two players from Wilcox, two players from Ridgway, and six players from Johnsonburg. One of the assistant coaches for the team is Sheffield native and former Kane head football coach Jason Barner. The team has four total coaches – two from Kane, two from Johnsonburg.
Barner says the co-op between the little leagues began last year with the 11-12 year old team.
“Some of these kids have played together in travel ball (prior to this year),” he said. “They all get along great and love playing the game.”
Barner’s son, Curtis, is one of the Kane players on the team.
“Curt has had some quality at bats and has also learned some lessons about good pitching,” Barner said. “All of which are great teaching tools.”
With four communities united to make the team, the amount of support Elk-McKean is receiving is “incredible”, Barner says.
“The community support is incredible. People have been absolutely awesome in supporting us,” he said. “It is a dream come true. Everywhere you go people are talking baseball. It is unbelievable how much support we have received. It for sure gives the kids a boost. They want to play their hearts out for home. It is a great experience for everyone.”
While a co-op between athletic teams can seem to be challenging, Barner says it has allowed the kids and families to form lifelong friendships and allow the players to have the greatest summer of their childhood.
“All of the families have been great and everyone has laughed and cried and sweat together in this journey,” he said. “We’ve get one more week together at the World Series and we will see if we can make a run at the title of World Champions.”
The boys and their families got to return home on Wednesday after winning the title, but their stay at home will be short-lived. They will be heading to Taylor on a chartered bus on Friday morning to fight for a World Series title.
“There are only 12 teams left in the world,” Barner said. “I can guarantee that our kids will leave it all in Michigan in the pursuit!”
Elk-McKean will play their first game on Sunday at 11 a.m. against West Regional Champions Manhatten Beach, California.