The Red Land team that is one of six left standing at the Little League World Series takes a simple approach at the plate. “They’re up there to hit home runs,” manager Tom Peifer said of the highest-scoring offense left in Little League Baseball. “Quite frankly, that’s our approach — to see how far you can hit it.”
“If they’re up there putting a good swing on it, we have no problem with that,” Peifer said.
The philosophy has worked well for the team from Lewisberry, Pa. The sluggers on the Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic Region champions have hit the ball far and have done so often.
“I think it frees them up a lot, and they like that,” Peifer, a former football player at Lycoming College in Williamsport, said. “They like to hit the ball far.”
Hitting home runs has paid off in many ways for Red Land, as well as some youngsters in need.
The team heads into Wednesday night’s U.S. winners’ bracket final with two shots to make Saturday’s U.S. final. Red Land can lock up a spot Wednesday by beating Pearland West, the Southwest Region champion from Texas. Otherwise, if needed, Red Land can qualify Thursday by beating Sweetwater Valley, the West Region champion from Bonita, Calif.
While Red Land chases a world title, which will be determined Sunday at Lamade Stadium and seen on ESPN, the team has already exceeded other goals.
Earlier this year, the team set a goal of raising money for the Vs. Cancer Foundation and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center. They set up a Pledge It page — pledgeit.org/red-land-vs-cancer — and began a fundraiser in which fans could pledge money for each run scored or make a one-time donation.
Collecting donations throughout an 18-game unbeaten run that has included district, section, state, region and now two World Series victories, Red Land has exceeded both of its original goals — $300 in pledges per run and more than $7,500 in donations.
According to the team’s Pledge It page, Red Land players and coaching staff “have chosen to use this opportunity to support kids battling cancer.”
The Vs. Cancer Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of children by funding cancer research projects and supporting local children’s hospitals. It was started in 2013 by Chase Jones, a University of North Carolina baseball player and brain cancer survivor.
As the team has won games and raised money, it's created quite the following locally.
More than 30,000 fans have packed Lamade Stadium and the surrounding hillside for the team’s first two games.
Cole Wagner, the second hitter in the lineup and the leader of the Red Land attack, was the star of the opener on Aug. 21. He went 4-for-4 with two homers, a double, five RBIs and three runs in an 18-0, four-inning rout of Midwest champion Webb City, Mo.
With an even larger crowd in place Sunday, Red Land kept the excitement up by first opening a six-run lead, then rallying from two down in the bottom of the sixth and final inning for a 9-8 win over Northwood, the Southeast Region champion from Taylors, S.C.
“Just stepping out on the field and seeing everyone out on the hill, it was awesome,” said Wagner, a first baseman and pitcher.
Dating back to the start of the Red Land playoff run on the district level, Wagner is 36-for-53 (.679) with 23 home runs in 18 games. Clayton Krauss has 13 homers and, by going 4-for-7 in Williamsport, has moved over the .500 mark.
Ethan Phillips, who brought a .512 average to the World Series, and Dylan Rodenhaber each have eight homers each. Braden Kolmansberger, an 87-pound leadoff hitter who scored the winning run against Northwood, has added five homers.
Fans can follow the statistics of the Red Land team in Williamsport through the GameChanger live scoring page here.