The ultimate underdogs are ready for Maine’s event.
After winning the New England Regional Championship last month, the Central Vermont 12U baseball team heads Cal Ripken where there has been no Green Mountain State team before: the Cal Ripken World Championship, which begins Saturday in Waterville, Maine.
Comprising 11 and 12-year-olds from Sharon, Thetford, Tunbridge and Randolph, among other nearby towns, Central Vermont lost a game—13 wins, no losses and one tie—in winning the Vermont State Championships, the Corcoran Championships in Claremont, New Hampshire, and the Championship New England in Burlington, Massachusetts.
“They’re excited to play baseball all the time,” said Central Vermont coach Ryan Langlois. “They enjoy competition, and they don’t get confused easily. They play with bigger kids or are more mature in the sense that they come from bigger cities, but they keep to themselves, and they do a great job of playing under pressure in critical situations.”
Central Vermont won the state championship last summer with many of the same players as well but suffered an early exit in the New England Championship. This experience served the team well this time around, as Central Vermont beat the Massachusetts State Champion and New Hampshire state runners-up Lebanon to qualify for the World Championships.
The All-Star season began in mid-June with pool play against teams from across the state, who determined the rankings for the state championship at Maxfield Sports Complex. Central Vermont dominated the competition, winning six games with a 60-6 aggregate.
However, the title match against Bellows Falls was anything but a smooth sail—Central Vermont trailed by three runs in the fifth, but a claw hit by Tunbridge’s Miles Lawrence tied things up, and Randolph’s Delaney walked in the sixth. with weakness.
“Everyone was in shock at first, then everyone went crazy,” said Rocco Adamoli Bochalek, a Tonbridge resident.
The team went on to overcome opposition in the Corcoran Championship against teams from Vermont and New Hampshire, and tied their first game against Swansea before going out of there, defeating Kane, New Hampshire, in the championship game. That paved the way for the New England Championship, where Central Vermont came in without losing anything and was knocked out of Waterville.
“The most competitive team for us was Weymouth, the state champion from Massachusetts,” Langlois said. “But for the most part, in a lot of the other games we’ve scored a lot more runs with a mixture of little ball, good hits, and sometimes we get lucky and get some kids to hit a lot of their runs.”
The Cal Ripken World Series will be played on two artificial turf pitches, with exterior walls supposed to resemble Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, respectively. Central Vermont will face teams from California, Idaho, and Indiana in pool, as well as two teams from Maine. To prepare for the change in the playing surface, the team trained at Dartmouth College Memorial Field, working on sliding and stabilizing the playing surface.
Although the tournament is within driving distance, the team estimated that the trip would still cost upwards of $50,000 for accommodation, food and tournament fees, so they ran a fundraiser to help cover some of those expenses. Some instrumentalists played music at Chef’s Market in Randolph, and the band also sponsored a car wash. Senator Patrick Leahy, who has represented Vermont in the US Senate since 1975, congratulated the all-stars in a tweet that included a link to the team’s Facebook page.
“These kids, they’re all toys,” Langlois said. “There is still that core group of kids in our great nation; they just want to play. They are as talented as any New England team, and we are so proud of them.”
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