LAURENS, N.Y.–The Southern Maine River Rats travel baseball squad claimed their second tournament crown in as many weekends on Sunday, June 30: The River Rats traveled to the 15-and-under (15U) Cooperstown Backyard Baseball Classic, where they defeated the West Jersey Vikings (Belvidere, New Jersey) 5-0 in the title bout.

The River Rats bested the East Coast Mavericks (Yorktown Heights, New York) 5-0 in the semifinals to earn their shot at the Vikings. A week prior, on June 23, the team won the Rockies Elite School’s Out Summer Invitational, held near Montreal, Quebec.

The River Rats sport their newest bling. Photo courtesy of Debbie Damon.

“This is our first season playing at the Division I level so,” said River Rats manager Greg Post. “In reality, I think we were hoping for a .500 season. The bulk of our roster has been together four to six years, but there was still an adjustment period early on this season. But once we found our groove, it took off from there. The chemistry on this team, and the fact that all 13 players buy into their roles, really set the tone for success.”

All told, the team spent 11 days on the road, going 9-0-2. They topped 10 different opponents, outscoring their Championship Sunday foes 27-2 in 28 innings. Miraculously, they went five-for-five in coin tosses. The dozen-plus kids and their families traveled nearly 1000 miles across five states and two countries.

“The tournaments we played in over the 11-day span were successful due to our camaraderie as a team, and our spectacular defense in every game,” said Bronson Damon, who pitches and mans the outfield for the River Rats, and also plays for Westbrook High School. “We hope to keep the momentum going throughout the remainder of the season and during playoffs.”

“Being the first River Rats team to play in a tournament outside the United States was pretty cool,” said Garren Post, who starts on first for both the River Rats and the Blue Blazes. “To be away for that long, and to win both tournaments alongside some of the best players in Southern Maine is really awesome. Our team roster is a really special group of guys and a lot of fun to be around.”

Nate Morse (left) and John Bickford, a pair of Bonny Eaglers, pose with one of the River Rats’ two recently acquired championship trophies. Photo courtesy of Debbie Damon

The trip provided the select group of 15- and 16-year-olds with more than just experience on the diamond, though. The team also toured Montreal’s Olympic Park, Aquatics Center and Stadium (where Major League Baseball’s Expos formerly played). They visited Burlington, Vermont’s famed Church Street for dinner; attended an informational session at St. Michael’s College, a DII school in Colchester, Vermont; descended on Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York; and visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown itself.

“The trip was really fun,” said John Bickford, a sophomore at Bonny Eagle High School. “The most memorable thing for me was how excited everyone was after winning the tournaments. The best part about playing with this team is how well everyone gets along. Our team chemistry is very good and everyone always supports each other.”

“It was a great experience that our coach planned for us,” said Nate Morse, another sophomore Scot. “It’s something I’ll never forget. The whole week was awesome! Me and my teammates all live in different towns, but we’ve become great friends. We have better chemistry on this team than any other team I’ve ever played on.”

The River Rats’ roster consists of Post, Damon, Bickford and Morse, as well as Kalvin Camire and Will Harriman, both from Biddeford; Jack Houle, Jake Kulig, Finn O’Connell and Ryan Thurber, all from South Portland; Mike McLeer of Saco; Payton Smith of Falmouth; and Joe Townsend of Scarborough. As mentioned, Greg Post manages the team. Chris Kulig of South Portland and Bob McLeer of Hollis coach.

So far this summer, the River Rats sit at 15-4-2; the team currently occupies first in the New England Elite Baseball League’s 15U Division I American League standings. League playoffs begin on July 20.

The River Rats flash some new hardware – and some smiles. Photo courtesy of Debbie Damon