Little League World Series slips from Wolverines' grasp
August 17, 2009
STUTTGART, Germany -- If only the Stuttgart Wolverines could turn back time. No doubt they would rewind to July 19, when the junior Little League team was just one victory away from earning a spot in the 2009 Junior League Baseball World Series to be held this month.
After soundly defeating Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania, the 13- and 14-year-old undefeated Wolverines faced Italy for the championship game at the European Junior League Baseball regional tournament in Kutno, Poland.
"We were confident," said center fielder C.J. Kellogg, now 15. "We were pretty sure we could win. We had one bad inning and that threw us off."
In that "bad inning," the Italian team scored four unearned runs. "I figured we'd get it back. That's what usually happens. But we never did," Kellogg said.
The Wolverines lost the game to the Italians 6-5, and with it, the chance to play in the World Series.
"We were the best team," said Kelly Measells, an assistance coach for the team. "We lost it - [the Italian team] didn't win it."
Despite the loss, the tournament was a great experience. "The kids had a ball," Measells said. "You get to meet all the international players from countries such as Belarus, Poland and Lithuania." After the games, the players put aside their bats and gloves for friendly sessions of basketball and pingpong, he added.
And while the defeat was a heartbreaker for all concerned, just getting to the finals was no small task.
"We had less than three weeks to mesh together as a team," said head coach Larry Tannenbaum.
The team's success was a result of dedication and many hours of practice. "We're out there two to three hours every day," he said. In three weeks, the players had only four days off.
"It's a lot of work," Tannenbaum said. "The kids have to buy into it. They understood we had the talent to go to the World Series - we just had to make the right decisions about where to play them and who would pitch."
He said the Wolverines played their hearts out and turned in several stellar performances.
Kellogg and right fielder Justin Rich were phenomenal at defense, according to Tannenbaum. "There wasn't a ball that hit the ground. They caught everything," he said.
The pitching staff was at the top of their game, allowing only 19 runs in the regional tourney.
"Billy Ellis pitched the entire game against Lithuania, which we won 12-0," Tannenbaum said. Dylan Measells and James Taylor also teamed up to pitch a perfect game against Germany.
On the offensive side, the Wolverines scored 74 runs in the six regional games. Measells, Taylor and Ryan Tannenbaum each batted over .700.
Now that the season is over, players such as Kellogg will turn their attention to football and basketball.
But baseball is still on Kellogg's mind. He intends to play on the Stuttgart Little League team for 15- and 16-year-olds next year.
"I hope we go as far as we did this year, and get ever further," he said.