06/23/12 7:29 PM ET
O's hold Pitch, Hit and Run Championship
Eight first-place winners chosen from 24 players ages 7 to 14
By Greg Luca / MLB.com
Yommer's blast, by a longshot the farthest in Saturday's Orioles Championship of the Pitch, Hit and Run program, drew oohs and ahhs from many of the 23 other participants and a resigned, "Well, I lost," from Bednar.
"He's winning right now," Bednar recalled thinking. "Pretty much he has a good score. And I thought, 'I have to do good on the throwing.'"
That he did, hitting the strike zone on the first five of his six pitches to claim first place in the boys' 13-14 division.
"There was a little bit of pressure, because I knew I had to do really good," Bednar said. "Thank God I did."
Eight separate divisions, both boys and girls ranging in age from 7 to 14, reducedgroups of three local and regional winners down to eight first-place winners on Saturday.
Those winners will have their scores compared to those from competitions being held in each of the other 29 Major League ballparks, with the top three advancing to the National Finals during All-Star Week in Kansas City.
Those finalists will be announced Monday at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network's "MLB Tonight."
"I was really excited," Bednar said. "Didn't even know it was probably going to happen. But when it did, it just hit me, the reality that I did. Never thought it would happen. That's just really cool."
The competition lasted about 75 minutes, as the 24 participants were timed running from second to home, had their hits off a tee measured for distance and accuracy, and tried to hit the strike zone with six pitches.
With a few dozen family members looking on from the seats, the kids packed into the third-base dugout, gushing about how 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper would sit on that same bench later that night.
Some chatted with their parents while others swapped stories from Little League. Bednar and boys' 11-12 winner Zach Doubleday became fast friends because, well, "We're both named Zach," Bednar said.
Kids who had their scores beaten let out playful "Aww shucks," often congratulating the competitor who bested them with a "Nice job," and a high-five.
When it came time to announce the winners of the first-place plates, the participants pressed up against the dugout railing, ready to step onto the field and receive their prize.
"I was nervous," said 13-14-year-old girls' winner Ruby Davies. "I thought the other girl, Kaylee [Buckbee] was going to win."
But when she found out it would be her?
"Oh my God," Davies said. "It was exciting."
The winner in the girls' 7-8 division was Hannah Lafferre, who was one of only three contestants from outside the state of Maryland, traveling 180 miles from her hometown of Maysville, W.Va.
Shanel Stott won the girls' 11-12 division after throwing strikes on her final three pitches and smacking all of her hits very near the accuracy line, nearly reaching second base with the farthest.
Where she'll stack up with the national competition, however, is another thing entirely.
"Well there's a lot of people out there, so I'm not really sure," Stott said.
"That would, I don't even know what to say about that," Bednar said of the prospect of competing in Nationals. "That would be crazy."
Whether or not they move on from here, it was clear all involved had a blast on Saturday.
After the competition was over, contestants received tickets to Saturday's game between the Orioles and Nationals. The eight first-place winners were honored on the field before getting to watch the Nationals take the field from the same dugout they were sitting in just eight hours earlier.
"That's really cool," Bednar said. "I never thought I'd do that and now I get to experience that, and that's really cool. I'll always remember that."
Greg Luca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.