Last month, Craig Dober was doing his best not to show his nerves.
Dober, head coach of the Montgomery County-Lower Little League team, had just seen his team lose the second game of the state’s Little League championship in Davidsonville in heartbreaking fashion.
Up 1-0, and one strike away from beating Berlin Little League, Montgomery County gave up the lead — and then the game — in a 2-1 defeat. The loss put the team one game away from elimination.
Dober’s team responded to the loss by wildly outscoring the competition and winning five straight games, including two against Berlin, to claim the championship.
“The kids rebounded a lot better than I did,” Dober said. “I didn’t show that I was a wreck, but I was feeling it.”
The team is the first one from Montgomery County to win the state tournament, and qualify for the regionals. Its opening game is scheduled for Monday in Bristol, Conn.
The winner of that tournament makes the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., representing the Mid-Atlantic region.
Dober, whose 12-year-old son Marcus primarily pitches and catches on the team, said he’s been coaching a great group of kids this summer. They’re well-rounded and easy to work with, and it’s been an honor to work with other volunteers to help them make it this far, he said.
Josh Taylor is the father of another 12-year-old on the team. His son Will primarily pitches and plays first and third base, Taylor said.
Taylor said the 13 boys on the team have known one another for years, and have often played with and against one another during the regular season.
They’ve had great chemistry and have gelled on their way through the district and state tournaments, Taylor said.
After Montgomery County lost to Berlin in the second game of the state championship, it outscored opponents 48-5 — including 17-3 in the final two games against Berlin.
“They’ve been dominant, and the reason they’ve been dominant is they have 13 very talented baseball players on the team,” Taylor said. “We’re just happy for the community who has been very supportive of this team … and we’re very proud of the boys.”
Montgomery County-Lower is based in Bethesda and also represents Potomac and Silver Spring, Dober said.
Another Little League team represents the county’s upper half, which extends from North Potomac up to near Clarksburg, he said.
Dober’s team is set to begin the regional tournament at 10 a.m. Monday against either Delaware or New Jersey.
No matter what happens, Dober has told his players to try their best, and enjoy the rest of their run. It’s been a great year for him and the hundreds of volunteers who help run the league, he said.
“It’s unbelievable,” Dober said of the team’s season. “It’s every kid’s dream to make it to the Little League World Series, and for it to be this close, it’s been a crazy experience.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com