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State College National Eyeing Trip to Little League World Series

by on July 13, 2013 9:44 AM

Fresh off a District 5 title Thursday night, the State College National 11-12 year-old team will head to Johnstown, Saturday afternoon to begin play in the Section 4 Tournament.

If everything goes according to plan, they will be in Williamsport a month from now participating in every young baseball player’s dream – The Little League World Series.

Jeff Shoemaker is in his third year managing the team that consists of 12 players ranging from 5th-7th graders. A few older players move on after each season once they are no longer eligible, but the core of the team has been together since Shoemaker started coaching in 2011.

According to the manager, it is a tight knit team, something that he hopes will help them go far.

“These kids are good friends off the field,” said Shoemaker. They do everything together whether it’s going to the movies, swimming in the pool, sleepovers. It’s a close bunch on and off the field.”

The team has set high expectations for itself. Last season, they won districts, won sectionals, and finished in 4th place at states. One of the players' father, a man named Jamie Miller, grew up in Williamsport and is using tales of the Little League World Series as motivation as the team embarks on the double-elimination sectional tournament.

“This whole experience can be a lot bigger than just baseball. Kids will remember something like that for the rest of their lives,” said Shoemaker.

The squad is led by a quartet of pitchers including Shoemaker’s son David, Jarett Beyer, Justin Vescio, and closer Jack Mangene. Based on Little League rules and innings limits, Shoemaker and Mangene are not eligible to pitch on Saturday, so either Beyer or Vescio will be on the mound when the contest gets underway at 3 p.m. 

While pitching has been key in the team’s 5-1 record through districts, Shoemaker is careful not to give out too much individual credit.

“The biggest strength of our team is our team. It’s a different guy every game that comes up big. There were a few games where a few kids played lights out and then all of a sudden they start to struggle. Someone else was always ready to pick them up, and that’s going to be key in a long tournament when players start to get tired and frustrated.”

“We have a guy on our team named Cole Pamner whose main job recently has been to pinch run. It might not seem too important, but he helped win us a few games. It’s just a different player doing something productive everyday."

The best indication of how Shoemaker operates as a manager might be exemplified by the following: As of Friday afternoon, he was not even sure of the opponent for today's game. 

“I couldn’t even tell you,” said Shoemaker. “We have confidence in our guys and only worry about what we can control. We tell our players the same thing.”

It turns out State College National is facing a team from Indiana, Pa. Red Land and Huntingdon are the other two teams in the section tournament.

While this is only his third year with this bunch, Shoemaker has been coaching baseball for a total of 12 years.

“In all my years of coaching, I think my favorite memory is last year. We got eliminated at states playing an early morning game but still had to appear in a consolation game later. In between, we took the kids to a water park, and they forgot all about losing that morning. That’s my favorite moment as a coach.”

If things go right, a trip to the water park this year will come a bit later on and be a bit more celebratory in nature.

“We just have a great team – great group of kids – and I really think our experience is going to help us this year.”



Drew Balis is a Penn State graduate, freelance reporter and frequent contributor to StateCollege.com.
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