By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
NORTH LAUREL — The bad news for the North Laurel 11-year-old All Stars is that they came one win short of earning a state championship after falling to Cambpellsville, 7-5, on Saturday.
The bad news for them is they went as far as they could have possibly went this season and the experience gained will help the squad as they try to make a run next season as 12-year-olds.
With a day gone by to let things sink in, North Laurel coach Jason Vanhook said he’s disappointed with the loss, but was quick to point out how much the team not only improved during the past month, but also how much the group grew and matured together.
“I told some of the kids early on that even though we had been beaten out in district play the past few seasons, our goal was to at least make it to the state tournament,” Vanhook said. “To be able to make it through to the last two teams in the state tournament was a bigger accomplishment than a lot of people thought we could achieve.
“The old saying is that you’ve got to lose one to win one and there’s always next year,” he added. “Next year is a whole lot bigger road, so hopefully these kids can take this experience and come back next year stronger and hungrier than they’ve ever been.”
North Laurel jumped ahead early in the championship game, but eventually fell behind when they gave up five runs in the fourth inning to make the score 7-3. North Laurel trimmed the gap to 7-5 in the fifth inning and had a chance to win the game in the sixth, but a ball that looked like it would leave the ballpark off the bat was caught to end the game. Vanhook said he was proud of the team, but admitted it was tough to lose a game after getting this close to a championship.
“It’s hard to swallow when you get to the state championship game and come up short,” Vanhook said. “My coaches and I talked about the fact that it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you’re this close to something so great and it’s taken away, but we'll learn from it.”