MANCHESTER — For Manchester, it was a bitter defeat. For Waterford, Conn., it was sweet revenge.
“Mission accomplished. Our kids wanted Manchester and wanted to beat them,” said manager Dave Laffey after Waterford posted a 3-2 victory to win the ages 13-15 Babe Ruth League Baseball New England Regional championship Thursday at Gill Stadium.
Waterford posted a perfect 4-0 record in the regional tournament and will be advancing to the World Series in Longview, Wash. “It’s a great summer for Waterford,” said Laffey. “Our 13-year-old team won the regional title in Newtown (Conn.) last week and they’re going to the World Series.”
Last summer, Manchester defeated Waterford 6-5 in the regional finals in Westfield, Mass. for the 14-year-old regional title.
Manchester, which won three straight games this week after losing Sunday to reach the regional finals, fought hard to the final pitch Thursday. But the Tom Woodlock All-Stars couldn’t solve Waterford starter and winning pitcher Jake Gannon, who allowed just four hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He hit one batter.
“Tip your cap off to that kid,” said Manchester manager Mickey Hanagan. “He didn’t give us much to work with. We couldn’t get enough runners on base to generate offense.”
The tough luck losing pitcher was Pat Swanson, who on 100 pitches, allowed six hits, two walks and fanned four. He also hit one batter.
“Both pitchers struggled in the first inning, but really settled down the rest of the way,” said Laffey. “We found a way to manufacture a run in the sixth inning and Gannon made it stand.”
In a 2-2 game, an infield error allowed Dan Castelpoggi to reach first base to start the frame. Castelpoggi stole second base and advanced to third base when Chase Speller singled to leftfielder Drew Merrick. Earlier in the game on a hit to Merrick, Laffey elected to wave Speller home from second when Alex Petchark singled to left in a 2-2 game. Merrick fielded the hit and through a dart to home plate where catcher Nate Hall applied the tag to Speller who was out by three yards from the dish.
This time in the sixth inning, Laffey played it conservatively, not wanting to test Merrick’s arm again, leaving runners on the corners with no outs. Swanson got the next batter to pop-out, but a wild pitch that bounced in the ground and off Hall allowed Castelpoggi to score the eventual winning run.
Gannon preserved the lead the rest of the way. He yielded a one-out single to Jon Robinson in the sixth inning, but left him stranded at second base after getting the next two batters. Gannon then retired the side in the seventh inning, getting a game-ending strikeout that punched Waterford’s ticket to Washington.
Waterford took a 2-0 lead in the first inning behind an RBI single from Justin Keating and an infield error allowed the second run to score. Manchester committed four errors in the game. The Woodlocks evened the score in the home first, getting a bases loaded walk from Swanson and a fielders’ choice RBI from Derome.