Seven years ago, one of the two Little League Baseball facilities in Palmetto was overhauled, and North River National Little League became Buffalo Creek Little League.
The first group of 4- and 5-year-old T-ball players to suit up for the newly named league at Buffalo Creek Park are now the veterans of the league. This summer, as the Buffalo Creek Little League All-Stars 11-12, they pieced together the most successful run in the league’s history, but on Saturday their postseason run ended. Buffalo Creek lost twice at Blackstone Park and settled for third place in Section IV two weeks after winning the first majors division District 26 title in Buffalo Creek history.
“Our goal was districts. We were being realistic — 12Us from Buffalo Creek haven’t done that, so that was our goal,” Buffalo Creek manager Dave Eatman said. “This is icing on the cake. Winning the game last night was the cherry on top.”
Buffalo Creek finished the section tournament 1-2 despite leading by at least four runs in all three games. The All-Stars raced to a 5-0 lead against the Dade City Little League All-Stars on Friday and won 12-5 after Dade City Little League tied the score at 5. On Saturday in Palmetto, Buffalo Creek took a 5-0 lead before falling to the Belmont Heights Little League All-Stars, 14-8. They jumped to a 4-0 lead against the Plant City Little League All-Stars but lost 19-9 in a game shortened to four innings by run rule.
Our goal was districts. We were being realistic — 12Us from Buffalo Creek haven’t done that, so that was our goal.
Dave Eatman, Buffalo Creek Little League All-Stars manager
Buffalo Creek leaned on its offense throughout the two weeks of All-Star tournaments, but the bats finally couldn’t produce enough. In five games across the district and section tournaments, Buffalo Creek produced 54 runs. Prior to Saturday, they had trailed for just a little more than one inning, and they erased that with a home run.
“You can’t teach heart and these boys have it. They fought hard the whole way,” Eatman said. “We lived and died by the bats, and today we died by them. We just didn’t hit when we needed to and we ran out of arms.”
Both of Saturday’s losses didn’t spiral out of control until the later innings when a relative dearth of pitching caught up to Buffalo Creek. The All-Stars took a 7-1 lead to the bottom of the fourth inning against Belmont Heights Little League. Before Buffalo Creek could get an out, the lead vanished. Belmont Heights scored six runs before Buffalo Creek recorded an out and ended the inning with 10-7 lead on the strength of two home runs.
11.2Runs per game the Buffalo Creek Little League All-Stars averaged during their postseason.
The loss to Belmont Heights left Buffalo Creek with long odds to advance, and any chance for a miracle vanished in the bottom of the third when Plant City Little League produced nine unanswered runs to turn a 9-7 deficit into a 16-9 lead.
Still, the Buffalo Creek All-Stars left the field with the knowledge they still made history: “We got that banner,” Eatman said.