Daniel Boone Little League plays to advance to Little League World Series

Friday, August 7, 2009 | 4:13 p.m. CDT; updated 10:16 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 7, 2009

COLUMBIA — Craig Brumfield is tired, but he doesn't want the run to end just yet.

Brumfield, the coach of the Daniel Boone Little League's National team, has seen his team come from the brink of elimination to being state champions. In his first year coaching this age group, Brumfield's squad is only a few wins away from a berth in the Little League World Series.

To advance to the Little League World Series, Brumfield's team will need to win the Midwest regional, held in Indianapolis. The regional is a tournament of the region's state champions.

But getting to the Midwest regional was not an easy task. It took a tough loss and a new mindset to win the state championship.

After losing its first game of the double-elimination state tournament to Carthage, the 2007 state champion, 10-0, Brumfield's team fell into the loser's bracket. Brumfield's team only had one hit in the game. For a team that wins with its offense, chances seemed slim for the Daniel Boone Little League to advance.

"Us getting killed was the best thing that ever happened to us," Brumfield said by phone from Indianapolis Friday. "We were playing scared. We talked about it after the game, and we acknowledged that we couldn't play that way."

Brumfield and his team adopted a new attitude - "Anything is possible."

"It was a baptism by fire when we got one-hit," Brumfield said. "Since that first loss we have been saying to give 100 percent effort, because anything is possible. Nothing is over until all 18 outs are made. There was a great response. The energy on the team went up, and the fear was gone."

That "anything is possible" attitude helped advance the new, looser team to the championship series, where it faced Carthage again.

Brumfield's team won the first game of the championship series 18-3, avenging the opening round loss. That win set up a final game, with the winner taking the state championship and advancing to the Midwest region tournament in Indianapolis.

In the final game, with the the score tied at seven in the bottom of the 6th inning, third baseman Dirk Adams stepped up the plate. After taking the first pitch for a strike, Adams hit the second pitch over the center field wall: a walk-off, state championship winning, home run.

"Dirk has batted twice earlier in the game, and was swinging really well early on," Brumfield said. "He's a left handed hitter against a right handed pitcher. I just had a gut feeling he'd come through."

The state championship was the Daniel Boone Little League's fourth in the past five years.

In 2006, the Daniel Boone Little League won the Midwest regional and advanced to the Little League World Series. Last season, the Daniel Boone Little League lost  5-3 to the eventual champions, Canyon Lake Little League from Rapid City, S.D. in the tournament semifinals. Brumfield said he is fortunate that the Daniel Boone Little League has had those previous successes.

"I talked to previous coaches who had been to the regional. They warned me about the day-to-day stuff. That small stuff could have bogged me down and made it seem bigger than the big stuff," Brumfield said. "I had a good idea of what I would be getting myself into before I got there."

In the Midwest regionals this year, the Daniel Boone Little League has already won its first game, defeating the Kansas state champion 11-1. The next game is Saturday, against the Iowa state champions from Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines.

Brumfield said he's concerned about Saturday's game, but feels his team's competition to get to Indianapolis has prepared it well for the challenges ahead.

"I'm sure the team we beat in Carthage would have done very well here," Brumfield said. "They are as good or better than two-thirds of the teams here."

Brumfield's team will also play the state champions from Minnesota and South Dakota in the round-robin round of the tournament. The top four of the six teams in the regional will advance to the semifinal round.

Gary Kespohl, the state director of Little League Baseball, says that Brumfield's squad has a great chance to advance to the Little League World Series.

"This team has excellent hitters, and superior pitching," Kespohl said by phone. "They haven't had that one game where their bats go flat. Every team has one of those games. If this team can get through that game, they could certainly be playing in the Little League World Series."

Brumfield isn't trying to get ahead of himself. He says his main goal now is to handle the 12-year-old boys he's coaching.

"I just have to make sure that these kids are not over anxious," Brumfield said. "We'd all like to play on ESPN, but I can't tell the kids 'We're so close to Williamsport'."

But as Brumfield has found out, keeping 12-year-olds in check can be a tiring task.

"I'm really tired, even after only two days," Brumfield, business development officer with Callaway Bank said. "That's what living in a bunkhouse with 12-year-olds will do to you. But I know this, I'm out of vacation days, so if we win this thing, I'm going to have to sit down and have a talk with my with my employer."

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