Kevin Elder wasn't sure what to expect from his team of Charles County Youth League all-stars in their first trip to the 16-under Babe Ruth World Series in Varina, Va. The coach hoped the pitching of Amanda Hanson and Ashley Johnson would at least give Charles County a legitimate chance to survive the four-game opening round of pool play.
Survive? Check. Finish undefeated? Check.
The strong-armed duo baffled opposing batters, combining for four shutouts as Charles County landed the top seed entering Tuesday's finals bracket, which is double-elimination. Charles County played Tuesday night against New Orleans.
"With the pitching being so good, it was just one of those things that helped us get over our nerves," Elder said. "It kind of set the tone. They fielded well and really pitched well."
The competition was a considerable step up from what Charles County had seen at the regional tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., last month.
But any lingering pre-tournament jitters were quelled the moment Hanson took the mound against host Varina in Friday's opener.
The St. Mary's Ryken hurler tossed a no-hitter against Varina, threw another gem against Lodi, Calif., and proved to be a formidable tandem with Johnson. Aided by a typically steady fielding effort -- twice Charles County survived a game without committing an error -- the team positioned itself well. The championship is tomorrow.
"They're making plays they haven't made in a while," Elder said. "They're really focused. They really want to come out and play as well as they've played this entire tournament."