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Hancock Little League team has ‘great run’

July 12, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The road to the District 9 Little League championship tends to go through South Fort Myers. On the 4th of July, Hancock had the tough task of facing them in the 10-12Major Baseball Tournament championship game for the second straight year.

It wasn't the same South team they battled in the winner's bracket final last week. This time, South scored early and often en route to a 10-1 victory at the Sam Fleichman Sports Complex in Fort Myers.

Andrew Hanlon drove in five runs, including a three-run home run in the first inning, and Ryan Shelbourne pitched 5 -1/3 innings of stellar baseball, striking out 11 and at one point retiring 14 batters in a row.

Article Photos

Hancock Little League pitcher Jake Mueller delivers a pitch during the District 9 12-year-old Little League Championship game at the Sam Fleichman Sports Complex in Fort Myers on July 4.


It's never an easy task to have to win twice. South Fort Myers never makes it easy for anyone.

"We couldn't get going offensively. We didn't play bad in the field, we just gave up home runs early," said Hancock coach Shane Howell. "We started to pitch after that, but you have to tip your hat to the other team sometimes. They did what they needed to do."

Hancock's Jake Mueller pitched his heart out in the winner's bracket final on June 27, but the bats couldn't get going in a 5-2 setback.

That loss sent them to the loser's bracket final against Port Charlotte, in a game that was switched from Harold Avenue Park in Port Charlotte to Kurt Donaldson Park. There, Hancock doubled them up 8-4 to set up the championship matchup.

"Hancock is a tough team and every year they give us problems. The boys held together and have been hitting well," said South coach Rob Knaak. "Today we swung at better pitches."

Hancock's offensive moment came in the bottom of the inning after Gary Kamphouse reached on a dropped third strike. Mueller followed with a single and Mason Howell reached on an error to score Kamphouse to cut the lead to 5-1.

From there, Shelbourne sent batters down quietly, at one point striking out six in a row with a mix of fastballs and off-speed pitches.

"He got ahead of nearly every batter, and that makes it easier. You can pull out your other pitches. The off-speed was working well today," Knaak said.

South added to its lead in the fourth on a wild pitch and Hanlon's RBI single to make it 7-1, then blew the game open in the fifth on Shelbourne's RBI double and RBI singles by Connor O'Connell (who scored three times) and Hanlon.

Howell said it was a great run for his team.

"I couldn't ask for a better group of kids. It's been a pleasure. They came to practice and worked hard and it's been real fun," Howell said.

Hancock isn't done. The 50/70 team played in Venice in a sectional tournament over the weekend, while the senior Little Leaguers were at DeLeon Park for a sectional tournament that started Friday.



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