The Portland 14-year-old Babe Ruth all-stars learned a hard lesson in 2014.

Needing one win on the final day of the New England Regional for 13-year-olds, they lost twice to Waterford, Connecticut. Instead of going to the national championships, they returned home.

There would be none of that this year. With essentially the same roster, Portland swept through the New England Regional and will play in the Babe Ruth 14-year-old World Series in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, beginning at 8 p.m. Saturday against White Hall, Arkansas.

The team flies out of Hartford, Connecticut, on Thursday.

“Last year I think the kids didn’t know what it was all about,” said Manager Tony Stewart. “These kids, when we had a team down this time around, we just buried them.”

Portland won two regional games by the 10-run rule, another by 8-0. Portland beat Westfield, Massachusetts, in the final 4-3 on a two-run homer by Trey Fletcher with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.

“That was quite a moment,” said Stewart. “I’m happiest for the kids. They were having fun and they achieved their goal. They wanted to go to the World Series.”

After last year, Stewart had an inkling that these players could get to a World Series. He was so confident that he put in vacation time at his job at Maine Medical Center in February. “Just in case,” he said.

Both Stewart and assistant coach Colin Snyder said this team has few holes.

“We have four solid pitchers, three solid catchers and can pretty much hit up and down the lineup,” said Snyder, whose son, William Snyder, plays shortstop and will be a sophomore at Portland High. “And we have speed.”

“It’s just a well-balanced team,” said Stewart. “They make all the routine plays, they make all the right throws. They have a very high baseball IQ for 14-year-olds.”

Stewart has a little experience as to what to expect in Arkansas. He was a first-base coach on another Portland Babe Ruth team that made it to the World Series.

“The bottom line is the level of baseball is very high,” he said. “That’s what the kids are going to find out, exactly how good the competition is.

“I want the kids to just play good, smart baseball. And I want them to take in the moment because you never know if you’re going to be back. I hope they have a great experience.”

He said he wants his players to just play.

“Hey, this is baseball,” he said. “Baseball in the Northwest Pacific is baseball in Portland, Maine. Just go out and do the best you can and we’ll see what happens.”

Stewart said the team raised about $12,000 to help defray costs for families and players.

The roster includes 15 players: Trey Fletcher, William Snyder, Cam King, Justin Ray, Ben Sawyer, Bobby Ridge, Garrett Tracy, Donnie Tocci, Hayden O’Donnell, Grady Black, Walt Lewandowski, Nick Boyle, William Barnard, Ben Stasium and Keller Nicolai.

Twelve teams are in the tournament. Portland will play five games in pool play, with the top three teams in each division advancing to the finals beginning Aug. 20. The championship game is Aug. 22.

“It’s a great crop of baseball players,” said Colin Snyder. “It’s an exciting moment for the kids.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH