The 11- and 12-year-old all-star baseball team from Naamans Little League has captivated the hearts and minds of Delawareans the past few weeks as it has advanced through the postseason circuit. The stakes have been raised, as Naamans will take on Holidaysburg, Pa., on Friday afternoon, with the winner earning a berth in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The roster is a group of names familiar to the Diocese of Wilmington. Nearly every player on the 14-person roster is connected to the diocese, either through Catholic education or Catholic Youth Ministry athletics.
They’re watching at St. Mary Magdalen Parish and School in Talleyville, which is the home of more players than any other. Five of the boys — Kyle McConnell, Zach Derbyshire, Declan O’Connor, Andrew Tray and Luke Luzader — attend the school, and Peter Hudson and Quinn Mulvena compete in CYM sports for the parish.
The interest is keen at Immaculate Heart of Mary School a few miles away. That is the home of Josh Rowe, Jack Blount and Paddy Bradley, all of whom will be in seventh grade this fall. Paddy’s mom, Amie, said watching this team have success at 12 years old “will be one of the greatest moments of my life.”
“My heart is so full. This team is a family. We have had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day we love one another and have each others’ backs,” she said.
The night before the game, Josh said the team was ready for its rematch with Holidaysburg. Naamans edged the Pennsylvania opponent on Tuesday, 5-4, to advance to the Mid-Atlantic regional final. The game begins at 3 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN. The group has meshed nicely through the all-star season.
“It’s been so fun,” Josh said. “We’ve been through a couple of tough games together. The whole team’s chipped in. We’ve all made a bunch of plays.
“It’s not one person. It’s the whole team helping out.”
His teammate, Tom Swasey, was the winning pitcher against Holidaysburg and made a key defensive play in the final inning after moving to shortstop. He said the team was prepared for Friday.
“We’re kind of relaxing all night, getting our bodies ready and our minds ready. We feel pretty confident,” said Tom, whose father, Dan, is a teacher and the boys’ and girls’ soccer coach at Saint Mark’s High School.
All-star Will McClafferty is a student at St. Edmond’s Academy, where he is a multisport athlete for the Lancers. According to St. Edmond’s director of social media Jill Fella, everyone at the school is keeping an eye on Naamans’ fortunes.
“The entire Saint Edmond’s community is proud of the success Will and his teammates are experiencing this season,” she said. “It’s every Little Leaguer’s dream to have an opportunity to play on such a grand stage.”
Tom said the team is trying to approach Friday “like it’s another game,” but they are aware of the attention they are getting back home.
“It’s pretty cool to think we’re representing the whole state of Delaware watching what we’re doing,” he said. “This was kind of our dream to make it to regionals. To make it this far is like living the dream.”
Josh said the players appreciate the support and attention they have received in Delaware and that it motivates them. Getting to Williamsport is also a motivation, something he has thought of for a long time.
“It’s always been my dream. I think it’s been everybody’s else’s, too,” he said.
The other members of the team are Nic Ciritella, who competes for St. John the Beloved Parish’s athletic teams, and Josh Stiebel.