---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
NORTHUMBERLAND -- With a popup to first, South Columbia's journey to a Sectional 3 title was complete.
Upper Dauphin certainly made them work, but the District 13 winners held on for a 12-11 victory on Friday at Acorn Park.
With the win, the South Columbia 9-10 All-Stars completed their comeback through the losers' bracket and final, winning three straight to become Section 3 champions. South Columbia had been tested early in the tournament, winning a pair of one-run games, but saved its best baseball for last.
Upper Dauphin rallied for five runs in the sixth inning, but Trystan Crawford held tough on the mound to prevent a full comeback.
"The kids, when their backs are against the wall, is when they usually play their best," South Columbia manager Don Harris said. "They did it again."
Harris' club did not let their earlier loss to Upper Dauphin linger, as evidenced by an uptick in their play when the team needed it most. That fight carried over into the weekend, using early-inning fireworks to hang on for a victory.
"These kids deserve (a section title)," Harris said. "They played hot all along. They're really phenomenal kids."
South Columbia led 12-6 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Upper Dauphin was ready to fight for a trip to western Pennsylvania for the 9-10 division state tournament, hosted by West Middlesex Little League.
The first four hitters in the inning reached base safely for Upper Dauphin and the frame began to have the feel of a large inning. A strikeout and an unassisted fielder's choice at second left South Columbia one out away.
However, Upper Dauphin is one of those teams that refuses to hang its head and accept defeat. As the game progressed, Upper Dauphin appeared to loosen its approach at the plate and swing freely, helping the comeback effort.
"I'm very proud (of my players)," Upper Dauphin manager Bryan Evans said. "These kids showed heart."
A Nathan Wise triple to center kept comeback hopes alive and cut the lead to two and an error at first cut the deficit to one.
A walk put the winning run on base for Upper Dauphin as Mason Evans stepped to the plate.
Crawford, who appears to throw from a half-stretch motion regardless of baserunners, repeated his motion to put Evans in an 0-2 hole.
After Eli Morrison squeezed a popup from Evans, South Columbia rushed to home plate to celebrate an improbable run to a section title, rebounding from an early loss to Upper Dauphin to sweep two in the final.
An eight-run inning for South Columbia in the second helped to break open a 1-0 game. South Columbia batted around in the inning and Upper Dauphin never seemed to fully recover from the barrage it faced in the second.
In the inning, South Columbia quickly loaded the bases and started using a patient approach at the plate to bring in runs. In all, South Columbia sent 12 hitters to the plate, turning a close game on its head.
Not to be outdone, Upper Dauphin answered by batting around themselves in the bottom half of the inning, scoring four runs to cut into the deficit.
Upper Dauphin cut into the lead again in the third, using some heads-up baserunning. With runners on first and third and two outs, Upper Dauphin tried a double-steal on a ball in the dirt.
As soon as the throw went to second base, Bryce Herb broke home from third base, scoring to cut the lead to four, 9-5.