Waterville – Ararat Youth Club has picked an ideal time on Saturday to start playing.
Unable to score despite putting sprinters at the base early in the game, Ararat came in with two runs in the fifth inning of the Cal Ripken World Series opener against Central Vermont. The team then advanced to defense to win 2-1 on a hot afternoon at Burnell Wrigley Field in Waterville.
Ararat fell 1-0 at the bottom of the first half as a throwing foul allowed the Vermont center to score. Although the Sagadahoek County Congregation failed to do so He scored over the first four rounds, and a powerful shot from Brady Hiltz kept it as a one-round game entering the fifth inning.
This time around, it was Ararat who would benefit from defensive errors as he scored two unearned rounds to take the lead at the top of the half. After outstanding defensive play by Hiltz and first baseman Garrett Ramsey to finish fifth, Ararat had two games with the first- and second-placed runners to carry Central Vermont its first loss of the season.
“This is a big stage, and obviously there were some early tensions that I think affected us,” said Rob Bell, co-director of Ararat. “We let them take advantage of some mistakes early on, but as the match went on, we were able to get in and settle in.”
Hilts provided the last three innings to earn the win for Ararat after Daniel Bale and Riley Combs went 1 1/3 and 1 2/3, respectively. Bell (singles) and Heltz (double) also had base hits for Ararat, as did Mason Hunt (double), Jonathan Clemons (single), and Emma Grafham (single).
Although Ararat was chosen as the away team, it certainly felt as if the team, which attracts players from Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdenham, had the advantage of playing at home. The team had a slight fan advantage over the Vermont team, and its proximity to central Maine added another benefit.
“It kind of gives you a huge advantage when you can sleep in your bed and then drive over here,” Bell said. “You can compare to when we played in Florida last year and had to fundraise with parents who took 10 or 12 days off work. Not on that scale this year.”
The 10 a.m. tournament opener followed between Waterville and East Side Youth Baseball (South Bend, Indiana) at the same stadium. The East side won 15-0 by scoring seven games in the first half, one in the second and seven more games in the third to activate the 15-round Mercy rule that takes effect when one team advances by that margin after three rounds.
Pitchers Dylan Jankowski and Zach Koontz only allowed one hit over three East Side innings. David Waite had three hits for South Bend, who also had two hits and four RBIs from Jankowski and two hits and three RBIs for Dom Haigh. Maxwell Comfort achieved the only hit of Waterville in the form of his first single.
“We’re getting hot right now, and that’s just kind of a baseball game sometimes,” said East Side co-director Peter Gillis. “Beating can be contagious, and that’s what happened in the first half, but the Waterville kids are strong and didn’t give up. They will do well in this tournament, and we may play them again.”
Noble and West Hartford, Connecticut, were due to play Little Wrigley later on Saturday with Andy Valley and Weymouth, Massachusetts, who were due to follow in the early evening. Laguna, Calif., and Meridian, Idaho, were scheduled to play at Maines Fenway Park in Oakland with Green County, Kentucky, and Shenandoah, Virginia, about to close their first day under the lights.
These teams took a lot of time to enjoy what the area and playing facilities had to offer. The East Side stuck after their game watching Ararat and Central Vermont, and their players, many of whom are Cubs fans due to South Bend’s proximity to Chicago, were intrigued by Little Wrigley.
“We love the place, and we love it here in Waterville,” Gillis said. “Hopefully do some sightseeing while we’re here. It’s already been a great two days.”
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