Taney wins Mid-Atlantic opener, 11-1, over Maryland champs

Taney's Jared Sprague-Lott is congratulated by teammates after his two-run home run in the fourth inning. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

BRISTOL, Conn. - Jared Sprague-Lott laughed and smiled with a hint of mischief.

How did the Taney Dragons calm their nerves the night before the biggest game of their lives, the opener of their Mid-Atlantic Little League Regional?

"We went to bed early," Sprague-Lott said after Saturday's game, nodding vigorously, perhaps suggesting his answer would be different if his coach weren't sitting next to him.

It didn't matter whether Sprague-Lott and his 12- and 13-year-old teammates actually went to bed early before their game against West Salisbury (Md.) on Saturday morning in Bristol, Conn. The Center City Philadelphia team didn't have to play a full game anyway, winning 11-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning on Little League's mercy rule.

Sprague-Lott was the final batter to step up to the plate, drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs to extend the lead to 10 runs, the Little League limit.

He was also the starting pitcher for Taney, battling through the first 22/3 innings of the game, allowing one run and one hit while striking out three and walking four. If he was tired, Sprague-Lott didn't show it on the mound or at the plate. Before his game-ending walk, Sprague-Lott smacked a two-run home run to left field to begin the scoring in the six-run fourth inning.

"Every team that makes it here, you know they're going to put up a fight, but you've got to do what you do best," Sprague-Lott said.

Taney did just that, playing sound defense and getting opportunistic hits, batting around twice in the game.

West Salisbury opened the scoring in the first inning, but Taney's deficit was short-lived. Jack Rice tied the game by leading off the second inning with a home run to center field, and Taney tacked on runs from there. By the end of the second inning, the lead was 5-1, and Taney never looked back.

If there were any doubts about how the team from Philadelphia would handle a bigger stage, they were erased with the blowout.

"It helps us a lot to know that we're here, that we can compete with folks here," Taney coach Alex Rice said.

Taney's next game is Sunday at 11 a.m. against Delaware state champion Newark National. Rice will likely want his players to go to bed early before the game to duplicate Saturday's result. Whether they listen or not is a different story.

 In Saturday's other Mid-Atlantic game, Toms River (N.J.) defeated Northwest Washington (D.C.), 12-2, in four innings.