SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Hollidaysburg Little League extended its summer and staved off elimination for almost a month.
The Mid-Atlantic squad put together 10 straight elimination game victories dating to the Pennsylvania state tournament to make a run at the Little League World Series title.
After winning three more win-or-go-home games at the LLWS, the streak finally came to an end Wednesday night in an 8-4 loss to Pearland, Texas, which gave the team both its losses in the World Series.
Thousands of fans rallied behind the first local team to play in Williamsport since 2015. Hollidaysburg is located just over 100 miles southwest of the Little League complex and its team captured attention with big crowds and winning when it absolutely had to.
It was the first trip to the LLWS for Hollidaysburg, which finished fourth in the United States bracket. Manager Jim McGough said that all 11 of his players had made the trip prior to this year as fans, and that the experience of playing in this season’s tournament is one that the town will never forget.
“It’s been the best experience that we have ever had,” McGough said. “We saw a lot of familiar faces from Hollidaysburg at the game tonight. Being able to have so much support from back home and from so many surrounding communities in Pennsylvania helped us soak in that they have really done a great thing.”
The streak of elimination wins began in Little League’s Pennsylvania state tournament. Hollidaysburg lost its second game to former World Series participant Keystone Little League. The boys followed the loss with five straight wins, including a revenge win over Keystone, to take the state title.
The regional tournament provided a similar experience, with Hollidaysburg losing its second game to Delaware only to outscore its next two opponents 17-1 to clinch a trip to the LLWS.
Hundreds of fans piled into buses to make the trip to South Williamsport last Thursday morning for the team’s first game, which resulted in an 8-3 loss to the Southwest team from Texas.
Hollidaysburg found itself trailing in the fourth inning of an elimination game to New England on Saturday night. With his team needing a spark, the team’s self-confident third baseman Chase Link launched a game-tying solo home run that sparked a four-run fourth inning as Pennsylvania would go on to defeat New England 7-5.
Trailing 1-0 on Monday against New York, Link — who did a little shimmy every time he got in the batter’s box — crushed a three-run home run to fire up his team and lead a 7-1 win. On Tuesday against Indiana, another Link home run opened the scoring early as Hollidaysburg coasted to a 10-0 win in four innings.
Throughout the run, McGough said the team lived by a simple motto: “One team, 11 strong.” In the game on Tuesday, six players contributed nine hits to live up to the mantra. They just didn’t have enough against a Texas team that defeated Pennsylvania behind Corey Khan, who robbed a home run at the left field wall and pitched the final three innings, giving up just one run.
McGough recalled dozens of videos that came in for the players mentioning the support of the town, including one from the entire Hollidaysburg School District faculty and another from Indianapolis Colts All-Pro long snapper Luke Rhodes, who is a Hollidaysburg native.
“They kept asking to play them over and over. That’s a really cool feeling for the kids and they will enjoy this and have a lot of fun,” McGough said.
Although the run has come to an end, members of the Hollidaysburg community will always remember the journey shared with the 11 players.
“The community really really stood behind them,” said Holly Link, Chase’s grandmother. “We were behind the team every bit as much as the team was together.”
Preston Shoemaker is a Penn State journalism student.