Joe Leckert has been coaching Little League baseball for nine years and three of them have been spent managing the Southwestern Youth Association East 11-12-year-old All-Star team, which squared off with Chantilly American this past weekend for the right to be crowned District 10 champions.
Throughout his career, Leckert has seen a lot of things, coached a lot of players and tinkered with his fair share of swings. But this summer has been different. Never had Leckert seen a team that could hit like this. An outside pitch? Leckert’s players could poke it to the opposite field. An inside pitch? Those were turned on and cranked into a gap somewhere.
In four tournament games prior to Saturday’s morning district championship, SYA East scored a total of 68 runs, an average of 17 per contest or almost three an inning. And needing to beat Chantilly American to claim the team’s third straight district title, the offense didn’t disappear as SYA East accumulated 14 hits.
But after a grueling 14-12 loss on Saturday, though, the momentum shifted. And the result was SYA East having to watch Chantilly American represent District 10 in the Virginia Little League state tournament this weekend at the Lincoln Lewis Vanoy fields because SYA East faltered, 8-6, during the second game of the double-elimination final.
“The boys really laid it all out there,” Leckert said. “I’ve never seen a team that could hit like this. We could hit all the way through the lineup -- even our subs. There was no way to ever count us out.”
Following Saturday’s loss, the two teams returned on Sunday afternoon, with Chantilly American’s pitching staff mostly rested. Starter Eason Recto limited SYA to three runs during the first four innings Sunday and hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning to give Chantilly American a four-run lead.
But later, with SYA East facing an 8-3 deficit and down to its final three outs, a three-run rally was cut short when Will Snyder scored on a sacrifice fly. While sliding to touch home plate, Snyder broke two bones -- the tibia and fibula -- in his right leg.
Snyder was taken to the hospital and underwent surgery Monday night to insert a series of pins, rods and bolts to stabilize everything, and he was in “very good spirits,” according to Leckert.
But Cory Thessin bounced to third after the 30-minute delay to end the game and SYA East’s hopes for a second state title in three years. And with the state tournament ahead, Leckert said his team will certainly be pulling for Chantilly American.
“It does sting a little bit that we’re hosting [the tournament] and won’t be there, but obviously they’re a District 10 team and that’s who we’re rooting for,” Leckert said. “We want to know that Chantilly won the whole thing and here we got beat by the state champions.”