The Westbrook Little Leaguers, representing Maine in Bristol, Connecticut’s New England Regional Tournament, started off a frustrating 0-2. But the 12-year-olds under Coach Rick Knight’s direction have had their share of thrills, and still weren’t out of it going into a Tuesday afternoon game against New Hampshire.

If the team beats New Hampshire, a win over a highly-touted Rhode Island team Wednesday at 11 a.m. could carry Maine from pool play into the single-elimination bracket, reserved for the top four of six teams.

Saturday, the host Connecticut team beat the Mainers 5-0, but with Sean Murphy on the mound, Maine trailed only 1-0 after four innings.

Catcher Tommy Lemay, with a pair of singles, had Maine’s only hits in the game against Dan Weigard, who struck out 18 batters and was clocked at an amazing 70-plus mph. Murphy fanned 10 batters and allowed only three hits, getting last-inning relief from Joe Royer.

“I’m very proud of the way we played Saturday,” said Coach Knight. “Connecticut could be one of the best teams in the country and we stayed right with them.”

Sunday afternoon, Maine took Vermont into extra innings before losing in the ninth, 2-1.

Nick Finocchairo started the game and was relieved by Zack Gardiner in the fourth inning with two runners on base. Gardiner worked his way out of that jam, with no runs allowed, then pitched strong for five more innings. Three consecutive hits, including Ian Solomon’s RBI-single, provided the game-winner in the ninth for Vermont.

Westbrook’s players thought they had won Sunday’s contest in the eighth inning, when Zack Collett appeared to have the game-winning hit up the middle, with Zack Gardiner on second base. But the hit ball barely knicked Gardiner and he was ruled out.

Vermont made numerous defensive plays to thwart Maine’s offense, including centerfielder Gavin Millay’s diving catch on Joe Royer’s looping fly to end the game.

“That team made seven game-saving catches,” said Coach Knight.

Meanwhile Andy Kent went the first six innings on the mound for Vermont, giving the team from Shelburne a solid pitching performance.

Maine’s only productive offense came in the first inning, Jared Martin scoring an unearned run.

“In the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, we had a chance to at least tie it, but they made some spectacular plays,” said Knight. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Other than the outcomes of the opening games, Knight said his players are enjoying the events in Bristol.

“These are some great facilities,” said the coach, who said he was also pleased with the home fans who attended the weekend games.

The players had an amusement park visit planned for Monday and were going to tour the studios of Bristol-based ESPN Thursday.


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