SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The smiles, the laughter and the fun returned Friday morning for the members of the Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League team.

“They’re back to being kids,” said Manager Brad Shelley.

Less than 24 hours after Gray-NG suffered a 10-0 loss to Northeast Seattle in its opening game of the Little League World Series, the players had moved on from the defeat. There was nothing they could do about Thursday, but they knew there is still plenty they can do about Saturday.

Gray-NG will play Media, Pennsylvania, at 2 p.m., Saturday in an elimination game at historic Lamade Stadium. With a win, the Maine team will play again Sunday at 11 a.m. against Smithfield, Rhode Island. If they lose Saturday, they are out of contention for the championship.

Yes, there’s a lot of pressure, but the players seem to realize they need to just play as they did in winning their first 13 postseason games.

“Win or lose this was a great run,” said center fielder Anthony Piccone. “We made it to the Little League World Series for crying out loud, there’s nothing to be upset about.”


On Friday, after overnight thunderstorms soaked all the practice fields and forced teams to cancel their morning practices, the players began the day with a trip to the Topps baseball card vendor, where they were given packs of trading cards to open and trade.

Then they were whisked over to the Adidas spot, where they were given baseball cleats to decorate.

After that, they returned to the dormitory, where they played pingpong and arcade games with players from other teams.

“They were just having fun and enjoying the experience of Williamsport,” said Shelley, who was celebrating his 16th wedding anniversary with his wife, Katie, on Friday.

Then on the way to the indoor batting cages for practice, they ran into We Got Ice – the YouTube and TikTok stars who post baseball and Wiffle ball videos. The players posed for photos and all walked away starry-eyed.

“That was so cool,” said third baseman Alex Hanlon.


They hit in the batting cages for an hour, then rode a bus to nearby Liberty Arena, an indoor facility, where they took ground balls, fly balls and worked on situational baseball.

“In the batting cage, it was about getting them making good contact, hitting line drives, shaking off the cobwebs,” said Shelley. “In the indoor arena, it was lots of ground balls, lots of fly balls, getting them to regroup, trust each other, trust their own skills.

“And to get back to where they’re executing fundamentals. Baseball games are won first and foremost with fundamentals.”

Shelley knew as soon as he greeted the players before breakfast Friday morning that they were all right despite the opening loss. Thursday night was spent with families, going out for dinner or ice cream or shopping. In only a few cases was baseball actually discussed.


And the players needed that.


“It took your mind off things a little bit, let you have some fun time with your family,” said pitcher Caleb Barker. “It was time to regroup and get your mind off a tough loss.”

Barker had a cheeseburger, Piccone a bacon cheeseburger with his family. Mason Amergian went out for ice cream with his family, enjoying a chocolate frozen custard shake with Oreos and hot fudge.

“I definitely needed that,” said Amergian, whose dad, Mike, is an assistant coach. “It really helped me.”

Shelley, his wife, Katie, son Nathan (a second baseman on the team), and 10-year-old daughter Cara went to Buffalo Wild Wings, where Nathan had honey-barbecue chicken wings.

“We had a lot of fun,” said Nathan Shelley. “It was good to get our minds off that loss.”

Piccone said he did talk with his father, Joe, about the game a bit, but only to make the point that it was time to get past it.


“We didn’t play our best and now we’ve got a second chance,” Anthony Piccone said of that conversation. “That’s how we’ve got to look at it.”

The players didn’t discuss the game when they returned to the dormitory. “There was really nothing to talk about,” said Barker.


Friday, the players knew it was time to get back into baseball mode.

“I know how hard you have to practice to have a good game,” said Nathan Shelley. “That’s what we need to do.”

Gray-NG knows a little bit of what to expect from the Pennsylvania team, which also played its regional tournament in Bristol, Connecticut.

“Good team,” said Barker. “They have good pitchers, play good defense and hit. It’s going to be a challenge, going to be one of those really tight games.”

Regardless of the pressure of the game, Mason Amergian said it’s time for him and his teammates to get back to playing their brand of baseball.

“For the most part, it’s about going out there and showing what you can do,” he said.

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