BRISTOL, Conn. — For the third straight game, South Portland American avoided elimination and extended its inspiring run Friday at the Little League Baseball New England Regional.

Trailing twice against Goffstown, the New Hampshire champion, South Portland rallied for a 7-6 victory in a nationally televised game at Leon J. Breen Field that included a controversial decision by the opposing manager to keep a substitute on the bench in hopes of extending a last-ditch rally.

For South Portland, playing its fifth game in six days, Matthew Fogg hit a tying three-run homer in the fourth inning and Johnny Poole delivered a two-out, two-run double in the fifth. Richie “Big Daddy Hacks” Gilboy earned the save despite three consecutive two-out hits that pulled New Hampshire within a run.

South Portland (4-1) will face Connecticut champion Fairfield American (2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Nolan Hobbs, who pitched five strong innings before reaching his pitch limit and moving to first base, ended the game by catching a pop fly in foul territory.

“He’s all heart,” South Portland Manager Jim Poole said of Gilboy, who earned his colorful nickname because of his player introduction remarks televised on ESPN earlier in the tournament.


“He believed in his defense. He threw strikes and gritted it out with the rest of them.”

Maine previously eliminated Rhode Island (3-2 on Tuesday) and Vermont (8-5 on Thursday) after losing 8-0 to Connecticut on Monday afternoon. Several coaches and players from Rhode Island returned to Bristol to cheer for Maine because the players, who shared a dormitory, became such good friends.

South Portland had the bases loaded in the top of the first with none out and a 3-0 count on Gilboy, the cleanup hitter. New Hampshire starter Nathan Innerfield escaped the jam with a pair of strikeouts and a force play at the plate.

Aiden O’Connell launched the first offering from Hobbs over the fence in right-center. New Hampshire tacked on two runs for a 3-0 lead.

“At the beginning of this game, I kind of lost some confidence in ourselves,” said South Portland defensive whiz Andrew Heffernan, “and then we regained it.”

Credit Fogg, the No. 9 hitter, who also homered in South Portland’s 9-7 win against Vermont on Sunday.


“First pitch, he threw me a knuckleball,” Fogg said of Innerfield. “Next pitch, I think he threw a knuckleball again, inside, and I just let the bat do the work.”

Sean Stanley, the father of Ben Stanley (whose single to left started the rally), caught the ball while standing behind the right-field fence. Heffernan followed with a double to left and Hobbs drove him in with the same to give South Portland a 4-3 lead.

The Hobbs double also spelled the end for Innerfield, who reached his pitch limit. Reliever Logan Simmons walked two batters to load the bases but escaped further damage with help from a favorable third-strike call.

New Hampshire struck back immediately. Ryan Strand’s double sparked a two-run rally for a 5-4 lead in the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Poole came to bat after Heffernan drew a two-out walk, Maine’s second of the inning.

“Usually when your team gets on (base),” Poole said, “you start believing in yourself and your team.”

Poole lined an opposite-field double and Heffernan followed Ian Wright across the plate, barely avoiding the tag from New Hampshire catcher Brayden Hollinrake.


“Right when he caught the ball I knew I was going to be safe,” Heffernan said. “I saw his glove chest-high and I knew I had a chance to get under it.”

Poole advanced to third on the throw. An intentional walk to Hobbs proved fatal for New Hampshire because Maine pulled off a double steal, this time with Poole sliding in safely at home after New Hampshire bobbled the throw to second attempting to nab pinch-runner Tim Crockett.

“We did not execute that well but it worked,” Jim Poole said. “A.) We’re not supposed to run all the way to the bag; and B.) We need a better jump from Johnny Poole on third.”

With a 7-5 lead, Hobbs pitched a hitless fifth against the bottom of the New Hampshire order and Gilboy survived a nerve-wracking sixth.

“I got a little nervous at the end,” said Heffernan – whose defensive prowess prompted ESPN announcer Karl Ravech to describe Heffernan’s glove as death to a baseball – “but those are the moments that you remember.”


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