The season didn’t end the way everyone had hoped.
There was no moment of unbridled joy after the final out, with gloves flung into the air.
There was no celebratory player dog pile in the middle of the field
There was no victory lap while holding the championship trophy.
Instead, after a heart-breaking, 5-4 extra-inning loss to New York on Thursday, Aug. 10, the Northeastern 8-10 Little League team could only wait and hope that the outcome of a later game would go its way and give the York County team a berth in the Mid-Atlantic final.
It was not meant to be, however. Delaware beat Maryland and Northeastern’s magical ride came to an end.
But what a ride it was.
A championship season: For nearly two months, the Northeastern "Boys of Summer" took their community on a heartwarming journey that featured 16 wins and only two losses. That included District 14, Section 7 and Pennsylvania championships.
It was something that folks in Manchester, Mount Wolf and the surrounding communities won't soon forget.
In the end, the season was anything but disheartening.
“We didn't view the ending as a disappointment,” Northeastern coach Gary Barshinger said. “We were smiling that our successful summer happened. Back-to-back summers (2016 and 2017) with … a District 14 championship and Northeastern's first Section 7 and Pennsylvania state championships this summer has given us plenty to be thankful for.”
A week to remember: Northeastern started its season with 16 consecutive wins before dropping its final two contests in New England. Still, Barshinger will forever cherish the Eastern Regional week.
“The experience in Rhode Island was fantastic," he said. "The boys were recognized at a banquet with the other state champions from the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. We were able to win two of the four games we played at a beautiful Little League complex to finish third in the Mid-Atlantic region. The motto at regionals is, ‘baseball for a week ... memories for a lifetime.’ Our players and their families certainly have memories to share for a lifetime.”
Grand reception: For the 38-year-old Barshinger, the reception the team received from the folks in Northeastern is truly special.
“The reaction from the Northeastern community has been amazing,” said Barshinger, who graduated from Northeastern High School and played baseball for the Bobcats. “Our local volunteer fire departments paraded us around town. The Northeastern School District and their leadership have given us great support. Local businesses posted signs recognizing the team's accomplishments. The community watched our live game feeds and followed us on Game Changer. Family, friends and community members supported and encouraged us on social media.”
More to come: The ceremonies for the Northeastern boys aren’t done yet. On Wednesday, Aug. 16, the team will participate in the Little League parade in Williamsport. On Monday, Aug. 28, there will be a meet-and-greet event at the Bobcat Creamery in Manchester. The team will also be recognized at a York Revolution game on Wednesday, Sept. 6, and at a Northeastern football game on Friday, Sept. 29. Other events are in the works as well.
It’s all pretty heady stuff for a group of kids that were largely anonymous just a couple of months ago.
Williamsport chatter: With their great success this season, there has been much chatter about the possibility of a trip to Williamsport for the Little League World Series in a couple of years when the Northeastern kids are 11 and 12 years old.
“Over the next few years at Northeastern Little League, we'll have many talented, driven 11- and 12-year-old players that would love to make Williamsport a reality,” said Barshinger, who has coached Northeastern Little League for five years. “We'll continue to take things one pitch at a time and certainly try our best to be a part of that conversation.”
Dealing with high expectations: Barshinger is a fifth-grade teacher at Trimmer Elementary in the West York Area School District. That teaching background is evident in the way he’s approaching the high expectations that could lead to greater pressure on the kids down the line.
“We try to instill a growth mindset in all of our players,” he said. “With a growth mindset, we praise the effort, not the outcome. As long as a player gives us their best effort, they're meeting our expectations.”
Keys to success: In the final analysis, Barshinger said the Northeastern team succeeded for a couple simple reasons.
One, it always put the team first.
Two, it featured a determination that never wavered.
“I'd like to commend the boys on our team for showing grit all summer long,” he said. ”No matter the score, they always displayed a never-give-up attitude which allowed us to secure many come-from-behind victories. The coaches look forward to the boys displaying that same grit as they strive to reach their future goals in baseball and life.”
There’s no doubt that, in the years to come, the folks in Northeastern will watch closely to see what lies ahead for their "Boys of Summer."
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.