Wallenpaupack Area's 9-10 All Stars ran roughshod over the competition en route to the 2014 title
It took more than a month for this Wallenpaupack Area Little League team to arrive on the threshold of history.
However, it took less than two hours to kick down the door.
On Friday evening at Carlton Drake Park in Newfoundland, the 9-10 all stars closed out an unforgettable run through the District 32 tournament by crushing North Scranton.
The local lads utterly dominated this one from start to finish. Coach Chris Strong's squad scored in every inning en route to a 14-1 Mercy Rule massacre.
It was Paupack's seventh consecutive win and brought with it the 2014 district title.
"I knew even before we played our first game almost four weeks ago that we had a really good team," Strong said.
"Did I think we'd run the table, go the entire tournament without a loss? Not a chance. "But, these kids proved me wrong. They're an awesome group and I couldn't be prouder of them."
Paupack players, coaches, family and fans celebrated in the infield Friday. They proudly displayed their Little League pins and posed for pictures with the championship banner.
Coach Strong stood off to the side and soaked it all in. However, his mind was already racing ahead, making tentative plans for a trip to the Section Five tourney.
"It's a pretty quick turnaround," he said. "We have to go to Wilkes Barre to play against teams from Districts 16, 17 and 31.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us, but I have a lot of faith in these kids. I definitely think we can go down there and make some noise."
Friday evening's contest was never in doubt.
From the moment lead-off batter TJ Schmalzle tallied the game's first run to the moment second baseman Brett Strong recorded the final out, Paupack dominated.
Schmalzle drew the starting nod and pitched two shutout innings on his way to the mound decision. Strong and Wyatt Peifer each toed the rubber in relief, allowing only one unearned run between them.
"Our pitching has been phenomenal," Strong said. "We're very deep. We have a bunch of kids who can go out there and throw strikes. As a coach, it's a nice luxury."
Offensively, Paupack wasted not time in battering North Scranton.
Mike Sewack was the starter and worked into the top of the fourth. He was battered for nine runs and ultimately absorbed the loss.
Matt Saita came on in relief and didn't fare much better. He surrendered five runs on six hits and a pair of walks.
In addition to pitching well, Schmalzle also enjoyed a sensational night at the plate.
TJ hammered out three hits in three at-bats. He opened the game with a walk, stole second and scampered home courtesy of Jack Smith's RBI double.
The highlight of Schmalzle's night came in the top of the second, though, when he crushed a towering 2-run homer high over the wall in left center.
He would close out the game with four RBIs and three runs scored.
"TJ's homer was one of the longest I've ever seen hit by a kid at this level," Strong said with a smile. "I think that ball is still going."
The local 10s put on a clinic against North Scranton.
In addition to stellar pitching, Paupack also displayed balanced hitting and Gold Glove defense.
Peifer, Smith and Alex Terrones each delivered key at-bats for the winners.
Peifer roped a double, scored a pair of runs and drove in two more. Smith smoked two doubles of his own, while Terrones came through with a 2-run single.
Mabret Levant, Garrett Tonkin and Roman Levant added RBIs as well.
"We can hit all up and down the line-up," Strong said. "It seems like every time we need a big hit, somebody different steps up. It's been fun to watch."
Defensively, Paupack brought its A-Game on Friday. The local 10s treated fans to one dazzling highlight reel play after another.
Of particular note were two double plays, each of which killed off a North Scranton rally.
The first came in the bottom of the third when North Scranton's Jacob Groncki hit a hot shot back to the mound.
Strong snagged the ball, fired to Peifer at short, who promptly relayed to Smith at first.
The second was a bit more unorthodox.
This time, Peifer gloved a grounder in the hole and unleashed a laserbeam to first. Inexplicably, a North Scranton runner made a mad dash for third and was cut down by a perfect throw from Smith to Levant.
"Wyatt is kind of our defensive captain out there," Strong said. "He's a very smart baseball player and always knows where to go with the ball.
"But, this is a really good defensive team overall. We don't make many physical or mental errors."
Score by Innings...
WL (7-0) 2 3 4 1 4 0 x -14
NS (5-2) 0 0 0 1 0 0 x - 1