BRISTOL, Conn. — It was probably the best-played game in the New England regionals, but it ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Saco Little League team.

Luke Chessie walked Ryan Sargent with the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning to force in the winning run as South Burlington, Vt., edged Saco 3-2 Tuesday afternoon at Breen Field.

South Burlington (3-1), the only team here to repeat as state champions, earned a return trip to the semifinals. Despite finishing pool play 1-3, Saco could still advance based on a favorable runs allowed differential.

“Obviously, it’s a very disappointing loss,” Saco manager Todd Duchaine said.”They know that they can hit the ball well. Down here, they’ve only seen it in the Massachusetts game but the folks back home know how good these boys can hit the baseball.

“It just seemed like every time we had a chance to hit the ball today we hit it hard right at somebody or we didn’t hit the ball hard enough.”

Neither team appeared nervous playing in a game televised by NESN, making just one error apiece.

Unfortunately for Saco, its error came at the worst possible time as it occurred in the bottom of the sixth.

After Ethan Klesch led off the inning with a single, Sammy Premsagar hit a grounder to shortstop Anthony Bracamonte but second baseman Brogan Searle-Belanger dropped the throw.

After a strikeout, Connor McGrath walked to load the bases and Sargent took four straight balls to give South Burlington the victory.

“Whenever I come up to bat, I always take the first pitch,” Sargent said. “I noticed that (Chessie) wasn’t throwing many strikes, so I’m thinking to myself I’m going to take as many pitches as I can – try to get walked or get the perfect pitch and hit it.”

Searle-Belanger got the start for Saco and allowed two runs and three hits over 4 1/3 innings with a walk and three strikeouts.

“We gave up three runs, so defense wasn’t our issue,” Duchaine said. “We played some good defense, we got some good pitching, we just didn’t get the hitting we needed.”

South Burlington starter Ben Tate was overpowering, striking out six and allowing one hit over 2 1/3 innings, but he was pulled after throwing 35 pitches to keep him eligible to pitch in the semifinals on Thursday.

Nicholas Liscinsky took over for Tate and walked Matthew Duchaine and Timmy Smith. Bracamonte, who was 2-for-3, followed with an RBI single and Saco added another run when Searle-Belanger reached on an error.

South Burlington quickly tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Liscinsky’s two-run single off Searle-Belanger.

“Maine is a tough team,” Burlington manager Sean McGrath said. “That pitcher (Searle-Belanger) really pitched well, had his good fastball, he had a good curveball and located well. They’re a gutsy team.”

Saco had a chance in the fifth when Matthew Duchaine and Bracamonte singled to put runners on first and second with one out.

But 11-year-old Matt Guyette, the youngest player on the South Burlington team, replaced Liscinsky and got out of the jam with a comebacker and strikeout.

Guyette is used to pitching in big spots as he closed out South Burlington’s win in the Vermont state championship game.

“I’ve come into a lot of situations like that,” he said. “I’m confident I can get the job done.”

Saco finished with four hits, including a two-out triple by Andrew DeGeorge in the second.

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