WATERVILLE — The Waterville Cal Ripken 11-year olds baseball team ended its run at the New England tournament with a 9-8 loss to Litchfield, N.H. Monday. It wasn’t the way the hosts wanted to go out, 0-3 in pool play, but the way it ended, making sure Litchfield didn’t coast into the quarterfinals, gave Waterville the chance to say it gave its best effort.

Down 8-1 after one inning to Litchfield, Waterville fought back, tying the game 8-8 in the top of the sixth inning on a passed ball. Litchfield scored in the bottom of the 7th to take the win. Even if it had pulled out a tight win, Waterville would not have advanced to the quarterfinals. Thanks to a series of tiebreakers, Waterville needed to win, and either score more than 16 runs or hold Litchfield to four runs or fewer to advance.

“I couldn’t be happier with the effort,” Waterville coach Brian Bellows said. “”Down 8-1, and we go to extra innings. We didn’t give up. Showed fight. Showed battle.”

With a gem of a ballpark, Purnell Wrigley Field, in Waterville, this was the third year in a row the city hosted a Cal Ripken New England regional tournament. As the host league, Waterville has a spot in the eight team field guaranteed. No host team wants to be a sacrificial offering to the state champion teams that make up the rest of the tournament. Lopsided losses to Central Vermont and Maine state champ Andy Valley meant Waterville had to win big Monday to advance. They knew it would be tough, but fun, too.

“We get lots of competition,” Chris Nawfel, the only member of the Waterville team to play in all three New England tournaments played at Purnell Wrigley Field, said. “It’s fun to get the chance to play against good teams from all these other places.”

As the wise old veteran of the team, did Nawfel have any advice for his teammates going into the tournament?

“Not really,” he said. “Everyone knows every team here is good. Every team is a state champ.”

With his team trailing 8-4 in the fifth inning, Nawfel hit a double to left field. He took third base on a Litchfield error, then scored on a passed ball to make it 8-5.

Pitcher Derek Couture came up big for Waterville. Couture came on in relief in the first inning, with Waterville already trailing 8-1. He held Litchfield at bay for five innings, allowing his team to chip away and send the game to extra innings. To Bellows, Couture was the epitome of what he’s stressed to the team all season, patience.

“Sometimes these kids get so upset at themselves. You’ve got to stay composed. We saw that tonight. We stayed composed, and we made it a game,” Bellows said.

The season isn’t over for Waterville quite yet. The team will face the Chinese national youth team at Purnell Wrigley Field next Monday. Many of the Waterville players will represent their league on the Waterville team that will play in the Cal Ripken 12-year old World Series at Purnell Wrigley Field next year.

The experience gained in three games this summer will only help. As they grow up, these players will learn patience and composure help more in real life than on the baseball diamond.


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