The boys from Westbrook again overcame two potential elimination games – not to mention an ill-timed equipment malfunction – to claim the Maine Babe Ruth 13-15-year-old championship.

With many of the same players that advanced to the Little League World Series some four years back and won the 13-year-old and 14-year-old Babe Ruth state titles the past two summers, Westbrook topped Augusta 8-5 on Monday night at Fred Morton Field in Augusta in the double-elimination tournament’s “if necessary” game.

After falling to the losers’ bracket after a 15-5 loss to Augusta on Saturday, Westbrook defeated Midcoast North 16-5 early on Sunday, then won a rematch with Augusta 11-0 later in the day to force Monday’s game. It was the same situation as last year, when Augusta had two chances to defeat Westbrook for the 14-year-old title, but Westbrook won twice on the final day.

After scoring four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on Monday to take a 5-1 lead, Westbrook looked to be in control. Starting pitcher Joe Royer was cruising along, having allowed only three hits – all singles – and one unearned run through five strong innings.

But after getting the first out in the sixth, Royer ran into some trouble. He walked Ryan Leach and Corey LaPierre followed with a single. A walk to Michael Phelps loaded the bases. Royer appeared to escape the jam when Nick Lucas hit a hard comebacker to the mound, but a freak play gave Augusta new life.

“The ball got stuck in the middle of my glove, which was loose to begin with,” Royer said. “It hit the right spot. I would have thrown my glove home if I had the chance, but I didn’t really think of that. It was too quick of a play.”

Rather than potentially turn a double play and escape the inning, Royer was left trying to extract the ball from the webbing of his glove. Meanwhile, a run scored and again the bases were loaded.

The next batter, Cory Clarke, tied the game at 5-5 with a three-run double to deep center field. Westbrook brought in reliever Tom Lemay from his position at third base. Lemay, who relies on an arsenal of off-speed pitches, hadn’t pitched in the district or state tournament. After walking the first batter he faced, he got the next two to groundout to retire the side.

In the bottom of the sixth, Westbrook’s Jake Gardiner was hit by a pitch to lead off. Scott Heath legged out a high chopper in the infield for a single. Zach Gardiner’s attempted sacrifice bunt turned into a fielder’s choice, as brother Jake Gardiner was thrown out at third. But Zach Collett clubbed an offering from Leach – who relived Augusta starter Spencer Allen in the fifth inning – off the right field wall to score Heath and break the tie.

“He threw me an unexpected first-pitch fastball, so on the second pitch I knew he was going to throw me a curveball. He hung one and I drove it to the opposite field,” said Collett. “The rest is on the scoreboard.”

Nick Finocchiaro followed with a two-run single to score Zach Gardiner and Collett and give Lemay some breathing room in the seventh.

Lemay set Augusta down in order to set off the celebration and give his team a spot in the New England regional tournament in Manchester, N.H. Westbrook’s first game is scheduled for July 31 at 1 p.m. against Eastern Massachusetts at Gill Stadium, home of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Westbrook manager Steve Marchant – recipient of the requisite Gatorade bath following the win thanks to a well-hatched plan courtesy of Heath as distracter and reserve Todd Hood as pourer – wasn’t sure what to expect out of his pitchers entering the game. Top starter Heath, who was named tournament MVP after not allowing a run in two victories, was unavailable after pitching a three-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts against Augusta on Sunday.

“We started tonight with Joey Royer and he was complaining of leg problems right from the get-go,” Marchant said. “We didn’t know how long we’d have him, but he said, ‘I’m going to give you all I’ve got. I’m going to keep going.’ He’s a gamer. He wanted to stay in as long as he could go.”

Royer set down Augusta in order in the first, striking out the first two batters he faced. Jake Gardiner led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and advanced to third after a walk to Heath and a wild pitch. Zach Gardiner then knocked his brother in with a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.

But Westbrook would not get another hit until the fifth. Augusta tied the game in the third when Allen singled, advanced on a passed ball, and then scored when Dan Alexander reached on a throwing error.

Heath led off the fifth with an opposite-field single. Zach Gardiner singled to center and Collett walked. Leach came on to replace Allen with the count to Finocchiaro at 3-1. He came back to strike out Finocchiaro, but Sean Murphy’s RBI single scored Heath. Trever Clouatre’s fielder’s choice grounder scored Zach Gardiner, and Lemay ripped a two-run double to the gap in right-center field to make it 5-1.


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