Whitestown, N.Y. - The Whitestown "A" All-Stars, ages 11-12, are set to take part in the New York State Little League Tournament in Penfield (Rochester area) beginning on Tuesday, July 23.
The team beat Saratoga, last weekend, in order to capture the Section 2 title. It's third time a team from Whitestown has qualified for the state tournament (2006, 2014).
"We're really psyched, it's been a long journey," said Whitestown second baseball/shortstop Tyler Thorngren. "We usually go game-by-game, one-by-one, and it just came out really good for us."
The team is made up of twelve players from Whitestown Little League, which fields 66 players in total. With the run that the team has had, they said the combination of players were selected perfectly.
"It's kind of like winning the lottery," said second baseman Lucas Tucker. "We just got the exact players that we need for every position and everyone on the team can get a hit. You can trust everyone to get a hit when you need it at the most."
Throughout the regular season, these players are sprinkled on different teams throughout the league. Though they may not be teammates all through the spring, they said that it wasn't very difficult to form a strong bond and gain chemistry once the all-star season began.
"I think it's natural because mostly in school we're all friends," said first baseball and outfielder Chris Jennings. "We're all friends in the regular season no matter what happens in the games."
Coming from a smaller league, Whitestown has gone toe-to-toe with some leagues that have larger numbers. Despite having a smaller talent pool to work with, the talent that they do have has been good enough to shrug off any opponent thus far.
Their victories up to this point have given them the confidence that they can go up against anybody, and come away with a win.
"[We've gained a lot of] confidence because we weren't supposed to win any of these games," said Jennings. "Now that we know we can, I think we know we can win the state tournament."
Throughout this run, the community has been behind these young athletes. Parents, family and friends have all come out to watch the all-stars take the field game after game. Coaches have volunteered their time to teach the athletes the fundamentals, and finer points of the game. Even local businesses have donated funds and goods to the team to help keep them going throughout the journey.
"It just shows that the people in Whitestown really care about us," said outfielder Luke Johnson. "We're only one of a couple of teams [from Whitestown] who have went this far."
While they still have a lot of baseball ahead of them to get to the ultimate goal, the team is proud of the fact that they've gotten to this point.
"It means a lot to us because it's just hard to get past districts," said Tucker. "So to get this far, we're really happy with our results."
Winning the state tournament would qualify Whitestown for the regional round of the Little League World Series, which would put them up against the state champion from Maryland in the Mid-Atlantic region championships on August 4, in a game streamed online on ESPN+.
That is certainly a major accomplishment, but the team is focused on getting the job done at states one game at a time, before looking any further.
Still, seeing that type of opportunity on the horizon is something that the team can't help but be excited about.
"It's a big testament to how they play on the field, how they came together," said head coach Garrett Zyskowski. "[They've gotten] used to the pressure. They look pretty loose and I think we'll be ready to go."
Whitestown will take on the Section 4 East champion to kick things off on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Penfield Little League Field. St. James Smithtown and East Meadow will play for the Section 4 East title on Friday at 7 p.m.