School will have to wait for Big Sky players after 2nd World Series win

2011-08-21T21:15:00Z 2014-08-25T14:29:58Z School will have to wait for Big Sky players after 2nd World Series winBy SUSAN OLP Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 21, 2011 9:15 pm  • 

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — For members of the Big Sky All-Stars, who won their second Little League World Series game on Sunday, some things will have to wait.

With the victory, the team will play in the semifinals Wednesday at 6 p.m. against Huntington Beach, Calif. The game will be televised on ESPN.

At a news conference after the game, a reporter asked Patrick Zimmer, Ben Askelson, Sean Jones and Ian Leatherberry if they were bothered that they would miss the first day of school.

"No," the four said in unison, drawing laughs.

No one expected the team, which already made history by making it to the World Series, to win one game, let alone two. At that same news conference, manager Gene Carlson said he couldn't have predicted that outcome.

But then he said something else.

"Once we got here, we knew we could play," he said. "They can play with anybody."

The players showed their grit Sunday, playing much of the game in the rain. After a Lafayette runner slid into second base and crashed into second baseman Connor Kieckbusch as he attempted to turn a double play, the Billings player shook it off and kept playing.

Asked what the players will do while they wait to play their next game, Carlson said they'll do what they've been doing all along, practice on the field and in the batting cages.

They'll also get some time with their families, he said, standing in the midst of the players and their families after the news conference.

Carlson said that nothing deterred the team Sunday.

"They didn't fold under pressure, because it was a tight game, it was a low-scoring game and a well-pitched game," he said. "The other team's a very well-coached team, but our kids didn't quit. They kept their focus and came out with a win."

As for how he's feeling, Carlson had a simple reply.

"It's kind of nice being 2 and 0 at the Little League World Series," he said.

As the families congratulated the coaches and the players, Dave Maehl, father of catcher Andy Maehl, said the game was another great one.

"It's a little nerve-wracking watching the game," he said. "It will be nice to have a couple of days to gear up for the next one."

Like all the players and the parents, Maehl has marveled at the team's progression, saying, "No, not in my wildest dreams" when asked if he thought the team could make it this far.

"I'm just happy for these kids and the success they've had and the support we've had back home," he said.

Maehl said he and his wife, Meredith, bought one-way plane tickets to the World Series.

"We learned our lesson in San Bernardino when we were there," he said.

Kari Jones, whose son, Sean, was Sunday's closing pitcher, said it's wonderful to see an underdog get two wins. She acknowledged that it's not always easy to watch her son play.

"It's very, very nerve-wracking," Jones said. "He seems to handle the stress well, but his dad and I, on the other hand, chew our fingernails, chomp on gum, put our heads down and root for him."

Unlike Dave Maehl, Jones and her husband bought round-trip plane tickets, "so we'll be making some arrangements," she said. "We wouldn't miss it for anything."

Dyanne Johnsrud, Sean "Jonsey" Jones' grandmother, has been following the team since her grandson was picked for the all-star team in Billings. She said they nicknamed her "Grandma Jonsey" because "I yell so loud, they can hear me. I'm hoarse now."

Johnsrud called the boys "an awesome, down-to-earth, happy, get-along team."

"I love these boys," she said.

Dani Kieckbusch, mother of Connor Kieckbusch, said she loves to see the boys work so well together.

"When one isn't doing well, the others pick that one up," she said.

Like the students, Kieckbusch will be missing the first few days of school. A third-grade teacher at Boulder Elementary, Kieckbusch has arranged for a substitute until she gets back.

"I have an amazing lady who said ‘I can't think of a better reason to sub,' " Kieckbusch said.


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