Milton Little League all-stars rally for district title

MILLSBORO – To outsiders, Milton might seem similar to several other eastern Sussex County towns on the way to the beaches.

But for many who live there it has become something else over the last half decade – a baseball town.

Thursday evening in Millsboro, Milton further cemented its status as an emerging baseball power when its 9- and 10-year-old all-star squad defeated rival Lewes-Rehoboth 11-9 to win the District III Little League championship. Milton won 9-10 baseball district titles in 2013 and 2014. Last year’s team reached the championship round undefeated but was beaten twice by champion Georgetown.

Milton's 9- and 10-year-old baseball all-star team poses with its District III championship banner. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

Milton’s 9- and 10-year-old baseball all-star team poses with its District III championship banner. (Sussex County Post/Jeff Mitchell)

The championship qualifies Milton for the three-team state tournament, which begins July 21 at the Millsboro Little League complex. Joining Milton, which will have a first round bye in the double-elimination tourney, will be whichever teams win District I (Kent County and Middletown) and II (New Castle County north of the canal).

“It feels nice to bring it home to Milton,” manager Shane McCarthy said of the championship. “We told the boys ‘you’re going to have your names on a banner. Everyone is going to see your names out there on the field.’ And all the boys are proud, and we’re proud of them.”

Bringing the banner home wasn’t easy.

Having defeated Lewes-Rehoboth 10-2 when the teams met on Tuesday, Milton got a much bigger fight from its rival Thursday night. Trailing 9-5 after four innings, the all-stars rallied for three runs in each of the final two innings to score the win.

“We never feel like we’re out of it,” McCarthy said. “Not with these boys hitting. Their bats are strong.”

Even so, Lewes-Rehoboth nearly ended the contest with a 9-8 victory that would’ve forced a winner-take-all rematch on Friday.

With an out on the board and runners at second and third, Milton’s Jackson Isaacs drove a liner deep to left where Lewes-Rehoboth’s Will Hocker corralled the shot. Tagging up on the play was Milton’s Mitch Joseph, but Hocker fired a frozen rope home that beat the pinch runner to the plate. Joseph, however, managed to knock the ball loose with his slide and knotted the game 9-9.

A pair of walks followed, loading the bases and bringing Gage Joseph to the plate. The three-hole hitter got jammed but was able to lift a Texas-leaguer that went off the glove of Lewes-Rehoboth second baseman Dylan Baker for a 2-RBI single that plated the winning run and an insurance score.

Trailing by two and down to its last at-bat, Lewes-Rehoboth didn’t go down without a fight.

The east coast all-stars, in fact, loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Milton pitcher Bryce Dominick, however, collected himself and got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts and a celebration ensued.

“I was trying to throw strikes, but everyone was yelling so it was hard to focus,” Dominick said with a sigh of relief. “It felt good to get those strikeouts, because I did not want them to score.”

Now the team will get three weeks of practice before state tournament play begins. As the team’s ace, Gage Joseph intends to use them wisely.

“I’ll practice more pitching and hitting,” said Joseph, who managed to turn a pair of double-plays in Thursday’s game from shortstop. “I’m really excited (about playing in the state tournament).”

Extra innings: Leadoff hitter Tyler Jocona reached base four times in the game, scored three runs and picked up a pair of RBI for Milton. Gage Joseph finished the game 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and a run scored. Bryce Dominick went 2-for-3 with 3 RBI and Jayceon White drew four walks and scored three times.

Lewes-Rehoboth out-hit Milton 15-7 in the bout. Leading the way for the team were Brian Fleming (3-for-3, 3 RBI), Will Hocker (3-for-4, 2 RBI) and Dylan Baker (2-for-3, 2 RBI).

From the Sussex County Sports Desk

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