(Oct. 19, 2018) Along with the milestone of the 150th anniversary of the Town of Berlin’s incorporation, officials on Saturday also celebrated another historic event: a pair of state champion Little League teams.
Nornie Bunting, Berlin Little League president, said the occasion of having state champions in both boys’ baseball and girls’ softball was a rarity – and something to celebrate.
He thanked the townspeople, saying trips to state and regional tournaments would not be possible without their support.
“We represent Berlin. We wear ‘Berlin’ across our chest and that’s what we’re about,” he said during a ceremony on Artisan’s Green.
Bunting said the softball league in Berlin is only about four or five years old.
The girls’ team won District 8 locally and then won the State of Maryland tournament, Bunting said, finally playing in Bristol, Connecticut during the Eastern Regional tournament. It was the first state championship for a Berlin softball team.
Sheri Smith, a team mom, said many of the girls played together on tee-ball teams and were there when the Berlin Little League Softball squads started.
When the regular season concluded, both the baseball and softball leagues form all-star teams that compete with other neighboring towns.
“This year we were lucky enough to pull 22 girls back from the regular-season team, and we had 14 girls that made the all-star team,” Smith said. “All of these girls played together, I think, in year one and have stuck it out and played together.
“Every one of them are near and dear to my heart. Over the years we’ve built that bond with family and friends and the players, and the stars aligned perfectly for these girls this year and they got to experience something that they may never get a chance to do again in their lifetime. We’re real proud of them,” she added.
The boys’ 11-12-year-old all-star team also won a state championship and was the runner-up in the Eastern Regional tournament, falling to New York in the final game before the Little League World Series.
Bunting said many Berliners watched those games on ESPN.
“And you had the joy of cheering on our team as I did. And it was a privilege once again to see that [Berlin] name across that chest,” he said.
Along with their stellar play, Bunting said the team was also honored for its sportsmanship.
“This team was so, so special that they received the sportsmanship award,” he said. “Their coaching staff, their players, they were just all winners. They’re winners in our hearts, they were winners on the field … these guys were winners everywhere they went.”
Coach Ron Knerr said the sportsmanship award was special, because only one Little League team each year is given the honor, which is named after one of the cofounders of the Eastern Regional tournament, Robert Watson.
“These boys represented not only what us as coaches wanted them to do on the field, but also off the field,” he said.
Knerr also credited Bunting and others with the league for their support.
“It doesn’t happen by chance that in one year the Town of Berlin – tiny little Berlin on the Eastern Shore – has two state champions,” he said. “That is just a phenomenal fete. It’s probably never going to be repeated. I hope it does – but I can’t see it ever happening again.”
All of the players received plaques. Knerr also honored Mayor Gee Williams and the town with a one of the sportsmanship awards.
Williams said there was a different kind of “Berlin Wall” inside Town Hall made for just such an occasion.
“It’s filled with plaques in recognition of the great performances and championships that the Berlin Little League has achieved in the last several years, and this will be right in the middle of that wall,” Williams said. “Sometime when you’re in Town Hall, look for the Berlin Wall that matters.”