Daniel Boone National team coach Craig Brumfield said Wednesday his team was "limping" into the semifinals of the Little League Baseball Midwest regional in Indianapolis. A loss had given the Columbia team the No. 4 seed.
But Brumfield's team found a way to correct that limp overnight. On Thursday afternoon, Daniel Boone faced the No. 1 seeded team from Blair, Neb., which had gone undefeated in pool play, and won 3-2 behind the strong pitching of Connor Brumfield and Matt Echelmeier.
Columbia's Daniel Boone Little League National team
vs. Urbandale Little League of Urbandale, Iowa.
WHEN: noon, Saturday
AT STAKE: berth in the Little League World Series
The victory advances Daniel Boone to Saturday's regional championship, where they will play a team from Iowa with a trip to the Little League World Series on the line. The game is set to be televised on ESPN.
"I asked Connor to take as much of the load as he could," said Craig Brumfield said by phone Thursday. "Our goal for Matt was to have him under 20 pitches so he could pitch on Saturday. He got the final out on his 19th pitch."
Daniel Boone scored two runs in the first inning, something Craig Brumfield said was a key to the victory.
"Getting runs out of the box takes off a lot of pressure," Craig Brumfield said. "Our defense has come and gone all summer, but it was here today, and it really helped us win today."
As planned, Echelmeier, the team's "1A starter" will pitch Saturday against Iowa, which beat Daniel Boone 16-0 in a game on Aug. 8
Craig Brumfield said Daniel Boone won the Missouri state championship after facing a similar situation. After losing to Carthage 10-0 in the opening round of its state tournament, Daniel Boone defeated Carthage in both of its rematches.
"We don't have to see Iowa's No. 1 pitcher on Saturday, so that should help," Craig Brumfield said. "We just have to live in the moment. If we win on Saturday, that's going to be great. If not, we've accomplished so much."
Craig Brumfield said he has enlisted coach Jeff Echelmeier of the 2006 Daniel Boone Little League team to talk to the 2009 team before Saturday's game. Echelmeier's 2006 squad won the Midwest regional and advanced to the Little League World Series.
"We've been consistent this year about telling our players to just do their job," Brumfield said. "We can't let the bigness of the moment overwhelm us."
Craig Brumfield said now the goal is to keep the team's emotions in check before Saturday.
"These kids are geeked up," Brumfield said. "These kids watch ESPN, and now they get to be on it. That's exciting."