The Saco Little League baseball team rushes the field with their state title banner after winning the 8 to 10-years old championship game over Standish. Saco heads to Rhode Island to play in a regional invitation tournament that starts Saturday. (Jason Gendron photo)

SACO — Playing the same team three times in one tournament has its advantages and disadvantages.

The Saco Little League Baseball team did its best to expose their advantages as they beat Standish 2-0 in the championship game of the Maine state tournament for 8 to 10-year olds in Westbrook. The teams faced each other twice before the decisive title game.

“There’s definitely a little bit of both (advantages and disadvantages),” said Saco head coach Jamie Gagnon. “You certainly get to understand their lineup. You also get to understand just how tough a team they are.”

In the first matchup against Standish on July 23, Saco pulled out a 4-3 win in extra innings. Saco scored twice in the top of the seventh to go ahead 4-2, then held on for a one-run win.

“We were definitely happy with the victory because it put us in a better position to move forward,” Gagnon said. “But, we knew it was inevitable that we’d see that team again in the tournament.”

In order to set up a rematch, however, Standish had to beat Lewiston, 11-5, on July 25 to keep their tournament hopes alive.

Standish continued its momentum in the rematch as they held on for a 2-1 win to set up the decisive championship game on July 27. Standish scored the winning run on a passed ball in the sixth inning. Even though Saco dropped its first game of the tournament, Gagnon was looking forward to seeing how his team would handle adversity the following morning.

“I think what really helped was that we really didn’t have much time to think about (the loss),” said Gagnon. “We went to bed, got right back up, and went to the field … And we had our ace on the mound.”

Noah Fullerton was that ace for Saco, and he delivered a dominant performance in the title game. Fullerton didn’t allow a hit and struck out 13 in 5 . innings, and Saco scored twice in the bottom of the first to hold on for a 2-0 win to win the state tournament.

“(Fullerton) was brilliant,” Gagnon said. “He had to be. Our bats went quiet for a bit … It was a brilliant performance on both sides. We could play each other 100 times and every game could be a coin flip.”

Saco advances to play in the Regional Invitational, which starts Saturday in Cranston, Rhode Island. Gagnon knows the challenge his team faces, but he said making the tournament was his team’s goal at the beginning of the year, and he is excited to see what they can do against the best the region has to offer.

“We are well aware of the level of competition coming from other states,” he said. “For us, we’re just going to try and play our game, and see where that leads us … We hope to represent Maine well.”

Sports writer Sam Bonsey can be reached by email at [email protected].

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