SKOWHEGAN — They never lost hope.

Even as the Skowhegan 11-year-old Cal Ripken team went to the bottom of the sixth inning trailing by two runs to Connecticut state champ Oxford it still believed that there was enough time to pull off an improbable comeback.

Down to its final out, Skowhegan did just that as Jimmy Reed’s bases-loaded single plated Kyle Kruse to give the host team a 5-4 walk-off win in the opening round of the New England Regionals Saturday.

“The kids battled all the way through,” Jimmy’s father and Skowhegan manager Kenny Reed said. “These kids fight and I was awfully proud of them.”

Skowhegan was in control early in the contest, as it jumped ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning. Hansen Towle scored the first run after a long rundown between third in home ended with him getting hit with the ball in the back and scoring without a play at the plate, while Ethan Curtis scored a few pitches later on a passed ball.

The advantage held until the top of the fifth when Kruse — who started the game on the mound, went 5 2/3 innings and struck out six — got himself into trouble by walking the bases full with one out.

There his counterpart, Oxford starter Hunter Keller, made him pay by roping a grand slam to left-center field to give the Conn. champ its first lead of the game at 4-2. Even after giving up the home run, Kruse never looked rattled though.

“He pitched a gutty game,” Kenny Reed said. “… It wasn’t his vintage Kyle outing but he gutted it out and still only gave up four runs.

“I’m sure he was frustrated out there on the mound but once he got back in (the dugout) it was gone. He is one kid that can kick it to the curb once something happens.”

Neither team scored in their next trips to the plate, but in the bottom of the sixth Sam Shields got Skowhegan going by sharply lining a one-out single to center.

Towle followed with a walk and Kruse then got a shot to redeem himself. The tall right-hander hit a high-bouncing ball back to the mound that was bobbled by Oxford’s pitcher, allowing all three runners to advance safely.

Curtis then hit a single to left that scored Shields, but Towle — charging hard from second — stopped just after rounding third to keep the bases with one out.

“It was one of those ones where it was close but I’m not going to ever second guess him,” Kenny Reed said. “He’s made great moves all year and it worked out.”

Not going proved to be a wise decision three pitches later, as a wild pitch allowed Towle to score standing up to tie the at 4-all. Oxford then elected to intentionally walk Zack Fitzgerald with first base now open.

Jacob Steeves stepped up next and battled Oxford reliever Tanner Soracco in a seven-pitch at-bat before going down swinging, setting the table for Reed’s two-out heroics.

Reed fouled off the first offering from Soracco before watching three straight balls. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat the left-handed hitter finally got something he could get a hold of, grounding the ball to the gap between Oxford’s third baseman and shortstop to plate Kruse.

“I love to see a pressure situation,” Kenny Reed said. “I think it helps you out in life and he did good job. He got the bat on the ball and got it done.

Reed reached base all four times he stepped to the plate Saturday with two singles and two walks.

Cam Lauder — who turned an impressive double play in the fourth inning with Curtis — picked up the win in relief after throwing just 1/3 of an inning, getting Jackson Greer to ground out to second.

Skowhegan will next play Marlboro, Mass., Sunday at 5 p.m.

“We’ll see tomorrow,” Kenny Reed said. “Cam Lauder is going to go and I only get him for five because I had to use him there in that last inning. He’ll go five and we’ll see from there.”

Evan Crawley—621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: Evan_Crawley

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.