Thursday, December 5, 2013
By BOB BIRGE Special to the Press Herald
BRISTOL, Conn. — Westport, Conn., knocked Saco out of the Little League regionals Thursday, shutting out the Maine champion for the second time in five days with a 3-0 victory in the semifinals at Breen Field.
The run to the final four of the New England Little League regional may have ended for Saco, but it took nothing away from what Coach Todd Duchaine and his 11- and 12-year-old players accomplished.
Photos by Mike Orazzi/Special to the Press Herald
Saco's Luke Chessie blows a bubble while fielding a ground ball during the New England semifinal at the 2013 Eastern Regional Little League Tournament at Breen Field in Bristol, Conn., on Thursday.
Westport will meet Lincoln, R.I., for the regional title and a berth in the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.
“I could not be more proud of the way the boys played today, how they conducted themselves,” Saco Manager Todd Duchaine said.
Saco put together much better at-bats Thursday than in an 8-0 loss Sunday to Westport in pool play.
Saco reached Westport starter Harry Azadian for four hits, including two doubles by Brogan Searles-Belanger, but couldn’t string hits together.
“We got a runner to third base and we got a runner to second base two or three times throughout the game, so we had our opportunities,” Duchaine said. “We did get the bat on the ball much better. We got to where we needed to be, which was the final four.”
Early on, Westport appeared headed for another easy win, taking a 2-0 lead on Max Popken’s two-run homer in the top of the first. Westport tacked on a run in the third.
But Westport’s high-powered offense was shut down for the first time in the tournament. Luke Chessie and Anthony Bracamonte combined to shut out the Connecticut champion over the final four innings.
Chessie held Westport, which outscored its first four tournament opponents by a combined margin of 39-8, to five hits over 41⁄3 innings.
“(Chessie) pitched his heart out,” Westport Manager Tim Rogers said. “He got tougher as the game went on. He mixed it up very well; he hit his spots very well.”
Saco finished just 1-4 in the regionals but acquitted itself well in the two games televised by NESN.
It lost its pool finale 3-2 to South Burlington, Vt., on Wednesday on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the sixth.
“I think when the kids look back on it years from now, they’ll look as these two televised games as two tremendous efforts,” Duchaine said. “We went toe-to-toe with the best Little Leaguers up and down the East Coast, and the games could have gone either way.”
Saco had a final chance with two outs in the fifth of the six-inning game when Ean Patry singled and Matthew Duchaine walked, bringing the tying run to the plate.
But Chad Knight replaced Azadian and struck out Timmy Smith, then tossed a perfect sixth to record the save.
“We’re very choked up,” Todd Duchaine said. “Myself and my assistant coaches talked about how we were going to approach this day and just soak up every minute of it in case it was our last (game).
“It turned out to be but it’s not just the end of the season, it’s kind of the end of an era for these parents, these kids and certainly for the coaches.”
Saco, with many of the same players, also won state age-group tournaments as 10- and 11-year-olds.
The Westport-Lincoln final will be on ESPN at 7 p.m. Saturday.