SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — Braden Kolmansberger has been responsible for starting the most dynamic offense in Little League Baseball all summer.
When Red Land needed to pull out a close game for the first time, Kolmansberger was there to finish off Northwood, S.C., Sunday night.
Kolmansberger doubled in the bottom of the sixth and final inning then scored the game-winning run in a 9-8 victory for the York County team that is one of four unbeatens left standing at the 69th annual Little League World Series.
The 13-year-old second baseman represents the third of three generations of a family with deep Pittston roots, which has played a role in the team attracting consecutive crowds of more than 30,000 at Lamade Stadium.
“We learned what we are as a team,” Kolmansberger said of the comeback after letting a 6-0 lead get away.
The tests have been few along the way for a team that outscored its first 17 opponents, 262-13, including a 17-0 romp over Back Mountain National in the state final.
Pittston Area graduate JK Kolmansberger, Braden’s father, is one of the team’s two assistant coaches. Jim Kolmansberger, Braden’s grandfather, has coached many of the boys on the team at previous times since moving New Cumberland to be closer to his sons and grandchildren after his retirement as a teacher and coach at Pittston Area.
The latest win, combined with a 18-0, four-inning rout of Webb City, Mo., in the opening round, gives Red Land two shots at reaching Saturday’s U.S. final. The first shot comes tonight at 8 at Lamade when Red Land faces Pearland West, the Southwest Region champion from Texas, in the U.S. winners’ bracket final.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Braden said. “None of us want it to end.”
Just hours after a visit from Gov. Tom Wolf, Red Land opened a 6-0 lead only to see Northwood come back with eight straight runs, taking the lead with four in the top of the sixth.
Still trailing, 8-7, with a runner on first, Braden ripped a double to right-center field. He eventually scored on Jaden Henline’s game-winning, two-run double.
JK, who played baseball, football and basketball at Pittston Area, said the players put a lot of hard work into getting to where they are, as one of six teams left in the world out of more than 7,000 that started the process.
“You have an idea this is possible,” JK said. “These kids have been to three state championships and have had a lot of success, but you can never expect to end up in Williamsport.
“We knew they were talented. We knew they work hard. They practice 12 months a year. We don’t let them throw all year, but they’re hitting and doing different things together.”
Red Land has created such a buzz that Little League officials have made special plans for their games, switching the first-come, first-served seating policy inside Lamade Stadium to a system where fans show up early in the day to get vouchers for seats inside the stadium. The rest fill the hillside overlooking the stadium.
Many of the boys who make up the team have been coached from the time they were 5 by a combination that includes JK and Jim, a 20-year Pittston Area baseball coach after coaching Pittston St. John’s to a state Catholic school championship basketball game in 1973. In his retirement years, Jim has also kept active as an assistant baseball coach at Red Land High School.
Braden plays second base for the Lewisberry-based team. He is 3 for 7 with a walk and four runs scored in two games at Williamsport. For the summer, he’s batting .479 with five homers, 18 RBI and 33 runs scored.
JK, a 1986 Pittston Area graduate, went on to get his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Relations at Bloomsburg University. He then earned an MBA and MS in Information Systems from the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business.
One of three founders of VisiQuate, a financial analytics company, JK moved his family to New Cumberland in in 2002.