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Lower Burrell ousted from tournament

| Monday, July 31, 2006

It was a long ride home Sunday for the Lower Burrell Little League Junior Division all-stars.

The local squad was eliminated from the Pennsylvania State Tournament in Sayre, about 4 miles south of the New York state border in Bradford County.

Kennett Square took advantage of seven Lower Burrell errors and emerged with a 13-3 victory early yesterday afternoon at the Athens High School Field.

Lower Burrell, aiming for its first state junior division title since 1998, had won the local District 26 title and the state Section 1 crown before heading to Sayre late last week for the six-team tournament.

Kennett Square, representing the Western Philadelphia suburbs, led, 2-1, after one inning, as Sean Bates drove in a run on a fielder's choice. But all four Lower Burrell infielders committed early errors, as Kennett took a 6-1 lead after 1 1/2 innings.

Lower Burrell gradually worked its way back into the game, trailing, 7-3, in the sixth inning, as Jeremy Landowski scored on a passed ball.

But, in the top of the seventh, the floodgates opened. Kennett put the game away with a six-run outburst to furnish a huge cushion for winning pitcher Martin Debeom.

"I think the kids did a great job," Lower Burrell manager Steve Yakopec said. "It's a shame they had to lose like this. Our assistant, Jim Hess, told me this is only the fourth Lower Burrell team to make it this far since the league was organized back in 1959."

Cam Nelson and losing pitcher Dave Yakopec had two hits apiece to lead the Lower Burrell attack.

It proved to be a memorable month for the Lower Burrell team, which recovered from an early loss in pool play to win the District 26 title.

"The real turning point was the game against Highlands," Yakopec said. "The kids came together in that game and really started to play baseball the way they're supposed to. They began picking each other up -- it wasn't just one or two players who were carrying us."

The starting pitching trio of Yakpec, Nelson and Rob Iozzi helped sustain Lower Burrell's lengthy postseason drive.

The Pennsylvania tournament winner will travel to Tinton Falls, N.J., on Saturday for the Eastern Regional Tournament and a shot at a berth in the World Series at Taylor, Mich.

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