By Marty Farmer
Facing elimination in the Illinois District 9 Little League 12U Baseball Tournament, host Brookfield was up against in its second game. After a 1-0 loss to LaGrange Park in opening-round action, Brookfield trailed Western Springs by seven runs in the fifth inning of the double-elimination tournament at Kiwanis Park.
However, Brookfield rallied with eight runs in the bottom of the fifth against Western Springs to cap off an improbable 10-9 win. Nathan Anderson hit a three-run home run to tie the game, followed by Julian Sumner's go-ahead solo shot.
"It was an incredible comeback win," Brookfield head coach Dennis Gilhooley said. "If we lost, we would have been out of the tournament. Once we mounted that comeback, we got our swagger back and played the rest of the games like we normally do."
Brian Severson, the Western Springs head coach, expressed how difficult it is to win at the tournament.
"We had a quick exit this year which is different for us. We have had success in prior years," Severson said. "The District 9 tournament is very competitive and brings out the best in the kids. The winner of this tournament generally plays the winner of District 11, which includes Hinsdale and Naperville. Whichever team comes out of that section typically does very well at state."
The Nationals (Brookfield's mascot name) consolidated their dramatic win against Western Springs with an 11-6 victory over rival Riverside and an 8-2 rematch win against LaGrange Park.
Daniel Gilhooley belted a pair of home runs and Julian Sumner hit one round-tripper as Brookfield finished with 12 hits against LaGrange Park.
"We had a great team effort against Riverside," Gilhooley said. "The Brookfield-Riverside rivalry is a good one, so it's always nice to beat them. The win over LaGrange Park was big because they knocked us out of the tournament last year and also beat us in the first game this year."
The championship game pitted LaGrange against Brookfield. LaGrange entered the final by outscoring its opponents 53-0, whereas Brookfield earned its way via the losers' bracket. Brookfield played well in the final and actually held a 5-4 lead; however, LaGrange claimed the championship with a 6-5 win.
The Nationals' Mesfin Duwell, Keith Towers and Sumner led the pitching staff, while several contributors fueled the offense.
Brookfield's players are Nathan Anderson (OF/P/1B), Kevin Cronin (3B), Julian Fernandez (OF), Mesfin Duwell (P/SS/OF), Joey Garvey (SS/P/C), Daniel Gilhooley (1B/OF/P), Tommy Loster (OF), Jordan Gonzalez (2B), Julian Sumner (C/OF/P), Keith Towers (IF/OF), Sebastian Wagner (2B), Jacob Cruz (3B) and Tohma Tucker (CF). The assistant coaches are Mike Garvey and John Anderson.
"This team won District as 10 year olds so we were confident they could do well at this tournament," Dennis Gilhooley said. "We didn't make it to the finals last year so the team did a better job this year."
Brookfield, Riverside, North Riverside, LaGrange, LaGrange Park and Western Springs participated in the tournament. In addition to good competition on the field, the tournament went well by any measure.
"We had great attendance, a new speaker system and the fields never looked better," Dennis Gilhooley said. "Dave Duwell and several other parent volunteers did a wonderful job taking care of the fields.
"And Tony Carey did a great job announcing the games. The tournament ran smoothly because of the tireless work of [tournament director] Katie Nasti. It's a very special tournament, which I'm sure the kids will remember the rest of their lives."
Severson praised the tournament as well.
"Overholt Field and Kiwanis Park is always a nice place to play," he said. "It's one of the older baseball diamonds that I'm aware of, and they do a great job with the field. Tony Carey does a great job announcing the kids. He's an old school announcer. I compare him to like a Vin Scully."
LaGrange, the tournament champion, advances to sectional competition. After sectionals, the Illinois State Tournament and Great Lake Regional in Indianapolis follow in order to qualify for the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.