WATERVILLE — The stakes were a little bit higher, with a little more pressure, but Waterville 11U Cal Ripken coach Larry Brown didn’t need to do much to help his team stay calm in the quarterfinals of the New England regional tournament.

Brown’s players were doing a good enough job of that on their own.

“Before the game, we’re taking batting practice, in the outfield they’re out there talking about everything else but baseball,” he said. “We’re not going to stop them, that’s what we’ve done all along. They’re nice and relaxed.”

When the game began, however, Waterville was ready. The regional hosts moved on to the semifinals Tuesday afternoon, knocking out Barrington, New Hampshire with an 8-1 victory at Purnell Wrigley Field.

Waterville is now two wins away from ending its season with a championship. There is no national tournament for 11U Cal Ripken teams.

It was Waterville’s fourth game in the regional tournament, and it came after the team went 3-0 in pool play to earn the top seed out of the four-team American division. But with no threat of elimination, those games were played with more room for error. From Tuesday on, however, a loss would mean the end of the tournament for a team suddenly in position to challenge for a New England title after only placing fourth in the state tournament.

“There was definitely more pressure,” said pitcher Brendan Roderick, whose team will play today at 5:30 p.m. “But when there’s more pressure, in my opinion, we play better.”

It showed, particularly after an unearned run allowed Barrington to pull even at 1 in the second inning. Gage Hubbard doubled off the left-field wall leading off the bottom of the third, and came home when Wyatt Gradie’s fly ball to right field was dropped. A pair of passed balls sandwiched around Keegan Dumais’s single then brought home Gradie to put Waterville ahead 3-1.

Barrington’s frustration began to spill over as Waterville extended the lead in the fourth. Alex Spaulding came all the way around when his hit up the middle leading off the inning got by the New Hampshire center fielder, Roderick doubled to right, Hubbard brought him in with a triple to left and then came home himself on Chris Newfel’s single, making it 6-1. The lead went to 8-1 in the fifth when Garrett Gendreau was hit by a pitch and scored on a wild pitch and Jon Roach singled and eventually came home on a double steal.

“They hit the ball well, they put the bat on the ball, they’re not easy to strike out,” Brown said. “We make things happen.”

Most of the damage was done by the 2-3-4 combination of Alex Spaulding — who doubled and scored the game’s first run in the first — Roderick and Hubbard, which went 7-for-11 with five runs. Hubbard went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a triple.

“I think everyone was nervous in the first inning,” Hubbard said. “But as that game went on, we all had more and more confidence.”

While Barrington cost itself on the mound and in the field, committing four errors and eight wild pitches and passed balls, its opponent avoided the costly mistake. Waterville made only one error in the game, and Roderick allowed one unearned run while walking none.

“Since I didn’t really have a good day yesterday, I just really thought in my mind I had to do the right mechanics,” said Roderick, who struck out four and allowed six hits in 5 1/3 innings. “I just pitched fluently and I just had fun out on the mound.”

Brown, whose team also got two hits from Dumais, a hit and a run from Roach and a hit and RBI from Newfel, said it was an example of the type of clean baseball that has allowed his team to flourish on the biggest stage.

“That’s what we’ve done. We play small ball, you see us bunting guys over, we throw strikes and play defense and get timely hits when we need to,” he said. “That’s what this team’s all about.”

And now they’re only two wins away from capping it off with the biggest prize.

“We feel that we can go all the way,” Hubbard said. “These games have got us to believe in that.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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