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Franklin captures D-18 10-12 title

Undaunted. Undefeated.

And undeniable.

Franklin Township’s run through the District 18 10-12-year-old Little League tournament was one for the record books.

One that saw the squad add its most satisfying chapter so far on Friday.

Much like it has throughout the tournament and in recent years, Franklin came up clutch when it mattered the most to claim the 10-12-year-old title with a 1-0 win over Valley West.

“This core group, nine of these 12 were the same kids that played in 2022 and won the district championship,” Franklin manager Ben Moyer said of that squad’s 8-10-year-old title run. “They know what it takes to get to the championship, but they also know what it takes to win. They put in a lot of hard work, a lot of long days, and they’re a team. They’re a true team, one-through-12. They have each other’s backs. It’s just a fun group to coach.”

Franklin blitzed through the tournament, outscoring its first four opponents 49-3. Valley West was just as impressive, scoring 80 runs to come out of the loser’s bracket and reach the final.

“You’ve got two teams that can hit the ball well, 1-0 was not what I had in mind,” Moyer said with a laugh. “But it was a great Little League game.”

And that run for Franklin came in the bottom of the first inning. Starting pitcher Ethan Laible led off with a hustle double on a ball into left field, and moved to third on a groundout to second thanks to some nice situational hitting by Carter Spotts. After a pop out to short stop, Miles Mann hit a ball deep into the hole at short that allowed Laible to race in from third and give Franklin a 1-0 lead.

Laible and the stellar Franklin defense made sure that was more than enough.

Valley West got a double from Tyler Hearity and a walk by Nick Kalce to put runners at first and second with one out in the third, but Laible got a fly ball to left fielder Brody Hunsicker for the second out and forced Jack Morelli to ground into a fielder’s choice, as short stop Owen Moyer alertly flipped to third baseman Mann to get the third out.

“I don’t think my curveball was working the best, but I thought my fastball was working pretty well,” said Laible. “I was able to pump the zone. But when I needed the curveball, it was there for me.”

After retiring the side in order in the fourth, Valley West got the leadoff runner on in each of the last two innings. In the fifth, Ben Nika laced a double and eventually moved to third on a groundout. But Laible got a groundout to second baseman Roman White for the third out.

Lou Gasper opened the sixth with a leadoff single for Valley West. But Laible got back-to-back strikeouts - his fifth and sixth of the night - before a fly ball to Hunsicker ended the game.

“I knew that we needed to get the outs, but I had confidence in my teammates and my defense,” said Laible, who surrendered just four hits and walked one. “I knew that if I threw strikes, they’ll get outs.”

The pitching for both sides was stellar. Valley West starter Javian Llibre allowed just three hits, none after the second inning and struck out three with no walks while throwing 53 pitches.

Franklin got the leadoff runner on in the top of the second when hustled to second for a double, but Llibre retired the next three hitters in order to leave him stranded. Franklin had one baserunner the rest of the way, when Owen Moyer reached on an error with two outs in the fourth.

“Javian pitched a heck of a game,” said Valley West mentor Rick Starrick. “Hats off to Ethan, and hats off to Javian. And really, the two stars outside of the pitchers were the catchers (Spotts for Franklin and Bryce Fancher for Valley West). I don’t know if there was a passed ball out there. It was a phenomenal baseball game.”

And it was one Franklin refused to lose.

“We tried to keep them loose and we told them there’s only one team today that can win championship, and it’s you guys,” said Moyer. “And there’s only one team that can lose one, and it’s them. We wanted them to have fun, and if it doesn’t go our way, we have another crack at it. But it went our way.”


... Franklin will advance to the Sectional tournament at a location to be determined.


... Valley West beat Franklin for the 10-12-year-old title last season. But Franklin beat Valley West for 8-10 title in both 2022 and 2021 ,


... Franklin went through the tournament with one defensive error, on a catcher’s interference call.


... Laible had a nice play in the top of the fourth, diving for a ball off the mound before flipping to first baseman Myles Meek for the first out. In the bottom of the frame, Morelli ran down a hard liner to right field to prevent an extra base hit for the second out.

Valley West 000 000 - 0 4 1

Franklin Twp. 100 00x - 1 3 0

Llibre and Fancher; Laible and Spotts. W - Laible. L - Llibre.

Franklin Township players and coaches celebrate their District 18 10-12 year-old Little League championship. Franklin defeated Valley West on Friday night to finish the double-elimination tournament unbeaten . RON GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS