HALFWAY – Game 3 of the 2022 Maryland District 1 10-12 Little League Tournament Trilogy between Halfway National and Conococheague will be a win-win.
Ian Rhea made sure of that.
The Conococheague starting pitcher pitched 5 2/3 innings scoreless and hit an RBI single and a two-run homer to propel his team to a 6-1 win over host Halfway National in Game 1 of the round championship Tuesday night.
The teams shared their first two meetings of the tournament – Halfway National beat Conococheague 8-2 in the winners’ final on June 29. Conococheague beat West End 2-1 in the losers’ final on Sunday to win Tuesday’s rematch, needing to win to force a final title match. This last meeting will be played in Conococheague on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“We knew they were our rivals and we wanted to come out strong – not like last time when we weren’t ready,” Rhea said.
“We went out and hit some fastballs,” Conococheague manager Jason Rhea said. “We didn’t let the strikes pass, we got going and we were ready to play. … I told them it was our game. We win this game and the district championship is ours. C that’s how I feel.”
Conococheague took a 2-0 lead early in the first inning. Ian Rhea’s double-double scored the first run and Grant Roth scored on an alert base from third when a strikeout on a dirt pitch forced a home pitch to first.
Rhea homered just over the fence to cross in the third inning for a 4-0 lead.
“It was the second pitch and I was just looking to demolish one,” Rhea said. “I knew he was going to throw a fastball at me, it was right in the middle and I took it.”
Luther Davis fielded a two-run single to right center in the fifth to cap Conococheague’s score.
Tossing with the lead from the start, Rhea went 5 2/3 innings, allowing three hits while striking out seven. His 86th and final pitch of the game led to a 4-6-3 double play.
“(I was) just hitting my runs and throwing as hard as I could,” Rhea said.
“He threw his butt off today,” Jason Rhea said. “I am very proud of my son.”
Tyson Mangold pitched a full game for Halfway National. He hosted Conococheague reliever Suko Mills with a solo homer that prevented a shutout.
“We came out a bit flat, and it had been six days since we played – the weather didn’t help us with that,” Halfway National manager Billy Baker said. “That home run at the end gave us a little spark and hopefully we can continue that tomorrow.”
The first game of the championship round was originally scheduled for Sunday, but rain on Saturday pushed the losers’ pool finals back by one day and the championship round by two days.
“They’re a good team,” Baker said of Conococheague. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, that we had to fight.”