DRUMS - Charlie Kistler, the manager of Tamaqua's 11-12 Little League All-Stars, likes having his team hit first.
And with the lineup he possesses, it's easy to see why.
On Tuesday, all 12 of his players either collected a hit or scored a run in cruising to an 18-2 victory over Valley East in the District 18 tournament winner's bracket final.
"Yeah, we came out hitting," said Kistler. "That was actually the first game where we put a whole bunch of hits together. We've been after these kids to put a bunch of hits together.
"(The coaches) argue this all the time. I always want to hit first. The other two coaches, sometimes they want to be home, sometimes they want to be away."
While Kistler favors an offensive start, even he probably didn't expect the kind of opening his squad would enjoy against Valley East.
Three batters into the contest Casey Rother delivered an RBI double - the first of his three hits on the evening. Zeke Wassell's single chased home another run while Riley McHugh and Jake Mateyak, the team's No. 8 and 9 hitters, each contributed two-run hits to give Tamaqua an early 6-0 advantage.
"We're pretty solid all the way down through," said Kistler. "I would take my eight and nine guys and wouldn't be afraid to swap my order around. They can all hit."
The winning club again proved that in the fourth inning a frame where Tamaqua sent 16 men to the plate and scored 10 times.
Josh Inama belted a three-run homer during the uprising, while Rother doubled home a pair of runs. Cody Scherer had a pair of RBI hits during the inning and Ty Kistler chipped in with a run-scoring single. Even reserve Dair Miller came off the bench and had a double and single in the frame.
"We saw them here last year," said Valley East mentor Chris Foss. "We hosted the 10-11 (tournament) last year and we saw them in every game they played. They're the same kids. They got bigger. They got faster. They got stronger. They're a good team and it's a class organization."
With the decisive win, Kistler's team has now outscored their opponents 50-7 in their four wins.
And with such impressive numbers, the performance of the team's pitching could get overlooked. Thad Zuber allowed just four hits and one earned run in gaining the victory. He walked three, struck out four, and worked his way out of the few times he was in trouble.
"(Taking the winner's bracket final) is very important because it comes down to saving your pitching," said Kistler. "It's so important to stay on the top (of the bracket). We have these days of rest and we'll have Zuber available again by the time we play. He's our ace. This was the first game he pitched. He was on and did great."
Tamaqua may be off until Monday, when they will meet the survivor of the loser's bracket, but that doesn't mean they'll get a break from the field.
"One, they've got one day off," said Kistler, referring to yesterday's Fourth of July holiday. "We will go back at it. We practice hard. We practice in this heat three hours every night. And it shows.
"But we let them be kids. They're in the dugout flipping their gloves around just being kids. We work them hard, don't get me wrong, but they're kids and we let them be kids ... We're fortunate enough that they took us along for the ride. That's the main part and the parents all feel the same way. They're taking us for a ride."
Tamaqua 620 (10) - 18 15 2
Valley East 101 0 - 2 4 5
Zuber and Inama, Rother (4); Pietrzyk, Yanuzzi (2), Reese (4), Reed (4), Wolk (4) and Welch. W - Zuber. L - Pietrzyk. HR: Tamaqua - Inama (4th, two on).