Tom Bell and his coaching staff didn’t select the roster for the Central Maine Babe Ruth 13-year old all-stars until July 1. They had eight practices before play in the District 5 tournament began. The fast place didn’t throw the team off. Instead, it may have installed an important sense of urgency.

“They’re really coming together,” Bell said. “The dugout is loud. They’re really cheering each other on.”

Central Maine won the state title with a 7-6 win over Somerset on Sunday. It will begin play in the New England tournament in Westfield, Mass. at 1 p.m. Friday against the Rhode Island champ.

Also heading to the New England tournament is Central Maine’s 14-year old Babe Ruth squad. Coach Butch Cunningham has 10 of the players who reached the New England championship game last summer as 13-year-olds back on the roster this year. After losing to Midcoast 10-2 on Sunday, Central Maine rallied to take a 4-1 win over Midcoast in the championship game.

“Midcoast is a good team,” Cunningham said. “We needed a little slap in the face.”

The Central Maine 14-year olds first opponent when play begins on Saturday in Winooski, Vt., is Cranston, R.I., the team that eliminated them from last season’s tournament.

“We wanted to play them again, anyway,” Cunningham said.

If the 13-year-olds win the New England title, they’ll play in the World Series in Kitsap County, Washington, which begins Aug. 15. A New England title for the Central Maine 14-year-olds sends them to the World Series in Murray, Utah, Aug. 18-25.

The Central Maine 13-year-old team averaged just over 11 runs per game in the state tournament, going 4-0. The team only had one game decided by fewer than eight runs, Sunday’s state final.

“They’ve been hitting the ball pretty well. Defensively, we’re playing well,” Bell said.

Shortstop Sam Bell is hitting over .700, Coach Bell said. Leadoff hitter and centerfielder Brandon Nale is hitting over .600. Catcher Curtis Martin is hitting well from the cleanup spot.

“We’re pretty loaded, one through nine,” Coach Bell said. “We’ve got some guys who can just hit the ball.”

Pitching-wise, Bell said he has seven guys who can throw strikes. The team used five pitchers to get through the state tournament, and tried to limit innings. Bell and his coaches tried to limit pitchers to three innings an outing, especially when pitching on hot and humid days.

“We’re not relying on a dominant ace,” Bell said.

Connor Garland had an eight strikeout game in the state tournament for Central Maine, and Ben Smith allowed three hits in a five-inning performance in opening game of the state tournament, a 17-2 win over Noble. Lefty Adam Barre has been Central Maine’s relief specialist. Barre went 2 2/3 innings to earn the win Sunday.

Even with Sunday’s loss to Midcoast, the Central Maine 14-year-olds had little trouble in the state tournament at Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Going into Sunday, the team had outscored opponents 37-3.

“All 12 kids are hitting the ball,” Cunningham said.

J.T. Nutting leads off for the Central Maine 14-year olds. Jared Cunningham, Dan Pooler, Nick Mayo, Trevor Gettig and Jonathan Wilkie are also among the team’s top hitters.

Like Bell, Cunningham is limiting his pitchers’ workload. Until Nick Mayo tossed 83 pitches in seven innings in Sunday’s state clinching game, no pitcher had thrown a complete game.

“The kids seem to be fresher when they pitch again,” Cunningham said.

Before the start of tournament play, the two Central Maine teams scrimmaged each other. The 14-year-old team set an example for the 13-year-old team, Bell said. Not just with its run deep in the New England tournament last season, but they way it conducts itself on the field now.

“That’s a talented group of kids. They helped shape my team’s attitude,” Bell said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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