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Taney suffers first loss in Little League tourney

BRISTOL, Conn. - For the first two games of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Little League tournament, the Taney Dragons looked invincible.

Taney's Kai Cummings. (Mike Orazzi/Staff)
Taney's Kai Cummings. (Mike Orazzi/Staff)Read more

BRISTOL, Conn. - For the first two games of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Little League tournament, the Taney Dragons looked invincible.

That ended Tuesday night when the state champions from Center City lost, 5-3, to N.Y. state champ Colonie, at Breen Field. After blowout victories in its first two games, Taney had already clinched a spot in Friday's regional semifinals.

Now, Taney manager Alex Rice is focused on helping his players keep things in perspective. They will get a chance to get back on track Wednesday at 5 p.m. against winless Northwest Washington, the D.C. champ.

Rice said he asked his players after the loss if they would have been happy coming out of pool play with a 3-1 record, "assuming we are successful tomorrow night . . . and they all said, 'Well, yeah.' "

The way Taney lost made the result more difficult.

Taney took an early lead, scoring three runs in the second inning. Jack Rice, Joe Richardson, and Carter Davis each hit doubles in the inning.

But the lead was short-lived. Richardson walked two batters in the bottom of the third, and Colonie's Jakob Lemperle knotted the score at 3 with a home run.

Colonie tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning, and Taney couldn't solve Colonie starter Zane Nelsen, who pitched 52/3 innings before reaching Little League's 85-pitch limit.

Rice said he felt his team's dominant play in its first two games may have impacted its lackluster third effort. By Taney's off day Monday, it had become the talk of the tournament, the surprising team from Philadelphia that had never been to this level before.

Rice wasn't fond of his players hearing that talk.

"With the day off and everyone on the entire complex telling the boys how great they are and so forth and so on, I thought we were ready to play, and we were a little flat," he said.

With the loss, Taney's future becomes murky. Toms River (N.J.) defeated West Salisbury (Md.), 10-5, Tuesday morning and has taken the driver's seat in the region with a 3-0 record.

Toms River plays Newark (Del.) National Wednesday morning. After that game, Rice said he would figure out the seeding implications of Taney's contest that night, the final game of pool play in the region.

He will need to balance the desire for Taney to earn the highest possible seeding with making sure that his best pitchers are available for Friday's semifinal.

"A little adversity, we'll see how they respond," Rice said. "I think they're going to respond well."