After Marc Hess and his West End Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star team won the Pennsylvania state title, Hess had an inkling that something special could be brewing.
After all, Hess knows what it takes to have a successful postseason run at the youth level. Last summer he coached Hepburn Lycoming’s Little League team to the state tournament.
This year, Hess is managing a Babe Ruth all-star team at the 13-year-old division. The league may be different, and the field’s a tad bigger, but talent is still talent, and Hess saw West End had a special team after that state tournament.
“After we won states, I felt really good. I just didn’t know what we’d get into. After watching the first couple games at regionals, I thought if our pitching holds out, we have a really good chance,” Hess said.
And a good chance they indeed had. West End won the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament to secure a spot at this year’s 2022 Babe Ruth World Series at the 13-year-old division in Glen Allen, Virginia. The tournament begins Friday and runs through Saturday, Aug. 20. West End plays the New England Region champion on Friday at 10 am in the first game, state champion Virginia on Saturday at 4 pm, the Pacific Northwest Region champion on Sunday at 1 pm and the Southeast Region champion on Tuesday at 10 am
The 10-team field is broken into an American and National Division. The elimination games begin on Wednesday with the World Series championship scheduled for Friday, Aug. 19.
“It’s been another crazy summer. The kids have had a lot of fun going from the state tournament to winning the Mid-Atlantic region. Now we’ve had three weeks off to get prepared for a World Series tournament in Virginia,” Hess said.
The West End 13-year-old all-stars have a balanced team, with solid pitchers and a lineup that can hit well throughout. For Hess, the team’s strength comes from its ability to have everyone contribute.
“We have 14 kids and kids on bench will come in and get a big hit when we need them and do base running when we need them to run,” Hess said. “But right now, our pitching staff is throwing the ball really well and keeping us in some games … and having a good defense behind them as well.”
That solid lineup includes Nathaniel Crowe, Jaxson March, Lincoln Miller, Jahvon LaRosa, Zachary Neill, Kason Ulmer, James Hill, Zion Hughes, Noah Kirby, Deshaun White, Mason Hess, Caden Lusk, Trey Damschroder and Briar Persing.
Having led Hepburn Lycoming’s team to states last year and West End to the World Series this year, Hess knows how key pitching is, and West End’s pitching has been solid throughout not only the state tournament, but regionals as well.
“Everybody we’ve put on the mound right now is throwing strikes. Going from Little League field to a bigger field, we aren’t just blowing doors in and striking out kids left and right,” Hess said. “We’re keeping the ball on the ground and giving our defense good opportunities. We’re 5-6 guys deep and we’re confident throwing any of them in there.”
Not to mention solid hitting which has gone a long way.
“When you have 14 guys you are comfortable with at any time (it’s great). You need a base hit, someone to get bunted over, we have a great top of the lineup. Their fast and they get on base,” Hess said. “Middle to lower lineup we’re not the fastest team in the world, but they’re going to put the ball in play. We’ve been scoring runs when we need them.”
As for the expectations going into Virginia? For Hess and West End, they believe they have the ability to win and compete.
“Having these three weeks and practicing every night, I told the kids ‘we all have to go there and have fun, why not go there to win it?’ It’s in our mindset,” Hess said. “We have no clue what we’re going to get ourselves into. Kids are playing against Hawaii and kids playing against Oregon and Mississippi, Virginia. We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into, but we’re going there to compete and actually try to win West End’s first-ever World Series championship.”
West End has a long line of success in all age divisions of Babe Ruth, from state tournaments to regionals and World Series. Just go to Logue Field and you’ll see plenty of Babe Ruth plaques highlighting the league’s success. And Hess is happy he’s able to continue that success.
“When we started, this isn’t what I expected. I knew we’d have a good team, but had no clue this is where it’d lead us,” Hess said. “We’re really excited and nothing better than ending your season at a World Series.”
There’s still a few games left for West End to play, and if the team is capable of playing the way Hess and his coaching staff believe they are, there may be one more banner to celebrate yet.