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Berlin Knights win their first tournament

The Berlin Knights 8U baseball team consists of 12 boys, 7 and 8 years old. They played three scrimmages in March before beginning their first season in April.

The Berlin Knights 8U baseball team clinched its first tournament win at the three-day Mid Atlantic Warriors Do or Die Baseball Tournament in Swedesboro on May 19, a significant milestone for a team formed just last August.

The idea for the Kinghts came from coaches Mike Kernan and John Waechtler, who wanted their sons and friends in Berlin to play travel baseball together. Instead of joining teams in other towns, they created one that would enable the young players to bond as they competed.

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“The Berlin Knights 8U baseball team was formed so that my son Chase and John Waechtler’s son Mason could play competitive baseball in their town with their friends and classmates instead of playing in an outside town,” explained head coach Kernan.

“We have both been coaching for the Berlin Athletic Association since our sons were in T-ball and knew that Berlin has very talented kids at this age, which aided in our decision to form the team.”

Forming the Knights required significant effort and financial planning from Kernan and Waechtler, both first responders in Berlin: The former is fire chief and a retired police sergeant in Berlin Borough, where Waechtler is a lieutenant.

“The process began in the spring of 2023 when we brainstormed ideas on how to form a team,” Kernan recalled. “A big obstacle was the financial aspect, which required planning and implementing fundraisers as well as seeking community support through sponsorships.”

Thanks to the generosity of 22 local sponsors – including King of Pizza, Visionary Brands, Timeless Med Space and the Berlin Farmer’s Market – the Knights managed to cover costs such as uniforms, umpire fees and tournament costs. Fundraising efforts by the players and their families were crucial.

The team consists of 12 boys, 7 and 8 years old, who were selected after tryouts. They played three scrimmages in March before beginning their first season in April. The Knights compete in the newly formed South Jersey Baseball League, which includes nine local travel baseball teams who play through early June, when playoffs take place. The Knights are registered for seven tournaments through July.

They played their first Swedesboro tournament game on Friday, May 17, defeating the host team, the Mid-Atlantic Warriors, 9-5. Waechtler highlighted key moments from the game.

“Hits by Luciano Sabec, Mason Waechtler, Chase Kernan and Jack Boyle were crucial,” he recounted. “The team executed several advanced plays, such as a rundown between first and second base and catching several runners stealing bases.”

The second game – scheduled for Saturday against Bubba Baseball Futures – was canceled due to rain, but it worked to the Knights’ advantage, according to the coaches.

“It allowed us to rest and save our primary pitchers for the next day,” Kernan noted. “The team’s mindset was positive, knowing a championship game was within reach if they won their first game on Sunday.”

That day, the second-seeded Knights had a first-round bye, then faced the Philadelphia Prime, defeating them 7-3 to move on to the championship game against the SW Stars from Swedesboro, the number-one seed at 10-0-1. The Knights prevailed, 10-4, to take the championship.  

“Having a first-round bye on Sunday was an advantage as the players could sleep later that day, thus having more rest,” Waechtler pointed out. “The coaches didn’t want to put any pressure on the players to get to the championship game. We just wanted them to go out and play their best and – most importantly – have fun.”

“The team approached the (championship) game with confidence and played flawlessly in the field,” Kernan recounted. “Hits in this game included SJ Viereck, Luciano Sabec, Mason Waechtler, Chase Kernan, Jack Boyle, Vinny Umosella, Mason Maloney, and Landon Emmett.”

Kernan and Waechtler are proud of the team’s success.

“It’s wonderful to see the players grow as people on and off the baseball field,” Kernan said. “Being good at baseball is great, but being a good person is what it is all about, and our main goal as coaches.”

The tournament win is just the beginning for the Berlin Knights 8U team, according to Waechtler.

“This win shows the team’s potential and ability to work together to overcome any obstacle,” he emphasized. “It demonstrates to the community and our sponsors that their contributions have made a difference.”

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