Sadiq Burkholder saw his Williamsport Junior RBI team run out of pitching at last year’s northern regional. It was a large reason why the team fell in the championship game. But rather than dwell on it or ponder what ifs, Burkholder responded by addressing the situation entering 2022.
His big focus was loading up on stud pitchers and to say it paid off would be an understatement.
Williamsport Post 1 Junior RBI won the northern regional tournament to secure a spot in the Junior RBI World Series from Aug. 1-6 at the Jackie Robinson Complex in Florida.
“The biggest thing we wanted to do was load up with as much pitching as possible. We had a roster of eight guys who could start and finish a game if needed,” Burkholder said.
The team has plenty of standout pitching and having that depth of pitchers is more than beneficial.
The team talent scattered top to bottom on the roster from District including Jersey Shore’s Jerrin Loomis and Gideon Dapp; Selinsgrove’s Griffin Parker; Mifflinburg’s Kayden Cmett, Aaron Bolick and Mason Schneck; St. John Neumann’s Aiden Vogt, Kane Wright, Braize Lamvert; Muncy’s Stiles Eyer; Loyalsock’s Deryk Kulp, Preston Sortman and Davyn Allis; Lewisburg’s Xavier Carter; and Williamsport’s Deshaun White. The team’s coached by Burkholder, Andy McMahon, Aaron Bolick Sr. and Ben Kulp.
The balance between hitting and pitching has helped Williamsport’s team reach the World Series.
“It’s a huge advantage. With baseball, you put up runs and you have a lot of room to work with. For us it’s nice. We play 10 — we have a designated hitter — but Nos. 1 through 9 as far as hitters go, our No. 9 could be leadoff and our No. 8 could hit in the three spot,” Burkholder said. “Every inning we have a leadoff hitter at the plate.”
In the semifinals of the northern regional, Williamsport was in a close game before a quick eight-run eighth inning broke the game open.
“It makes it so much nicer. One of those dream lineups you can have,” Burkholder said. “Our lineup can destroy a baseball. We put up 10 or more runs up in every game except one, and we had eight in that game. We have tons of arms and just a lineup that no team can really hang.”
Burkholder and his RBI team know that the World Series tournament will be tough with tough teams from across the United States and International teams. But he believes that their team has a very good chance to make noise next week.
“The World Series is always loaded with talent. You’re playing the best guys from all over. We might see a team from the Dominican Republic, which is always good. I think realistically we have a great chance to win,” Burkholder said. “We have such dominant pitching and our lineup is unreal as far as a team goes. Any lineup we put out there, we have a great spot and can count on runs.
“Pitching makes up for somewhat of a lack of defense in terms of having a bulletproof defense, but we have bulletproof pitching.”
Unlike various other youth leagues and divisions, the RBI league goes right to a regional tournament. That’s where Williamsport faced tough teams from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware.
This is the second year the RBI charter program was put together. Last year, Burkholder coached the senior team and his father Corey coached the junior team. This year, the two swapped roles. Last year’s junior team made it to the regional championship before losing, and the senior team made it to the World Series.
And this year, the younger Burkholder’s team meshed right away from the first practice.
“The first week of practice, they were already talking like they knew each for 10 years. Going into a tournament with team that meshed so well, you can’t ask for anything better than that. Younger kids, sometimes it takes times to mesh together and get on same page,” Burkholder said. “For us, fortunately, it happened in two days. More they played together over the weekend, more they kind of became one solid unit. Everyone knew their job, did their job.”
Being in just the second year of the charter, Burkholder is hoping the success the junior and senior teams had in 2021 and also this year will help garner further interest in the program.
“Last year was a little tough. It was brand new league and a lot didn’t know what RBI was. I played from eighth through senior year, my dad and I knew, had a good understanding. It was a little tough getting people on board and sell it isn’t traditional travel ball. But with this year, because of success making championship last year and senior team, we actually had too many kids this year,” Burkholder said. “It isn’t always fun, but you’re trying to put together a bulletproof roster. I think with junior team making World Series, senior team last year, I think it’ll only get bigger next year.”