WATERVILLE — For a team that wasn’t even supposed to be here, the Brunswick 11-year old Cal Ripken team is making sure it sticks around the New England championship tournament as long as possible.

With Tuesday’s 5-3 win over Central Vermont, Brunswick advanced to the semifinals, where it will take on Maine champ Andy Valley. This ensures a Maine team will play for the New England title, and the big prize that comes with it: a spot in the Cal Ripken 12-year old World Series next summer here at Purnell Wrigley Field.

“These kids are just great athletes and good ballplayers,” Brunswick coach Daykin Marini said after his team’s win over Central Vermont. “I love coaching these kids.”

Brunswick fell in the finals of its district tournament. This season, Brunswick’s district was able to send two teams to the state tournament, so they played on. At states, Brunswick fell to champion Andy Valley. When Connecticut elected not to send a team to the New England tournament, though, Brunswick played on.

Brunswick fell to Chelmsford, Massachusetts in its opening game, 13-3. It rebounded with a 12-4 win over Ash/West, the Western Massachusetts representative in the field, them cruised to a 15-0 win over Cranston, Rhode Island to finish pool play with a 2-1 record. That set up Tuesday’s elimination game against Central Vermont.

Brunswick took a 3-0 lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Lefty starter Ethan Patterson got out of a pair of jams early to preserve the lead. First, he struck out a pair with runners on first and third with one out in the top of the first. In the second inning, he started a 1-3-5 double play, in which first baseman Adrian Reyes threw a perfect strike to Christian McMaster at third to nail a Central Vermont runner trying to advance on the grounder back to the mound.

“We build each other up. We’re really good friends,” Reyes said after the game. “It’s all about trusting your teammates. If we don’t trust each other, we don’t win these games.”

A first baseman/pitcher, Reyes is the team’s slugger. He goes by the nickname “Little Big Papi,” a nod to former Boston Red Sox clutch hitting machine David Ortiz. Reyes showed it’s an apt nickname in the bottom of the fourth inning. When Central Vermont got a run back in the top of the inning to cut Brunswick’s lead to 3-1, Reyes crushed a home run, a no-doubter over the wall of right-center field wall of the Wrigley Field replica. Reyes knew it was gone when he made contact. Everybody knew.

“It just feels good,” Reyes, who hit four home runs in the state tournament, said.

At this point, every game Brunswick plays is a gift. They know Wednesday’s opponent Andy Valley well. They know it will be a tough game.

“We try not to think too far ahead,” Marini said. “Go out there and have some fun.”

As Marini spoke, Central Vermont coach Lance Chambers approached to offer congratulations.

“Your team has the best sportsmanship I’ve seen all tournament,” Chambers told Marini.

As Marini thanked Chambers and offered praise on Central Vermont’s play and sportsmanship, the men looked towards home plate. There, players from both Brunswick and Central Vermont milled around, goofing off and having fun. You know, things 11-year old boys will do after a baseball game, win or lose.


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