WATERVILLE – Ararat Youth Baseball picked the perfect time Saturday to start playing.
Unable to score despite setting up the runners early in the game, Ararat had a deuce in the fifth inning of their Cal Ripken World Series opener against Central Vermont. The team then prevailed defensively to claim a 2-1 win on a hot afternoon at Purnell Wrigley Field in Waterville.
Ararat trailed 1-0 late in the first inning as a pitching error allowed Central Vermont to score. Although the Sagadahoc County team couldn’t score in the first four innings, Brady Hiltz’s solid pitching kept them a one-run game going into the fifth.
This time it was Ararat who would benefit from defensive errors as he scored two unearned runs to take the lead early in the inning. After some great defensive plays from Hiltz and first baseman Garrett Ramsey closed out the fifth, Ararat got two outs with runners at first and second in the sixth to hand Central Vermont their first loss of the season.
“It’s a big step, and there was clearly some jitters at the start which I think affected us,” said Ararat co-manager Rob Beal. “We let them take advantage of a few mistakes early on, but as the game progressed we were able to get in there and settle in.”
Although Ararat was named as the away team, it certainly felt like the side, which attract players from Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham, had the home advantage. The team had a slight crowd advantage over the Vermont team, and their proximity to the central Maine region added another advantage as well.
“It kind of gives you a big advantage when you can sleep in your own bed and then drive here,” Beal said. “You compare it to when we played in Florida last year and had to go through fundraising with parents taking 10 or 12 days off. It’s not on that scale this year.
The game followed the 10 a.m. tournament opener between Waterville and East Side Youth Baseball (South Bend, Indiana) on the same field. East Side won 15-0 scoring seven runs in the first inning, one in the second and seven more in the third to enact the 15-run leniency rule that kicks in when a team leads by such a margin after three sleeves.
Pitcher Dylan Jankowski and Zach Koontz allowed just one hit in three innings for East Side. David Waite had three hits for the South Bend team, who also had two hits and four RBIs from Jankowski and two hits and three RBIs for Dom Haigh. Maxwell Comforth had the only hit for Waterville in the form of a first-inning single.
“We’ve just been hot right now, and that’s kind of how baseball is sometimes,” East Side co-manager Peter Gillis said. “Hitting can be contagious, and that’s what happened in the first set, but the kids from Waterville are tough and didn’t back down. They’re going to do well in this tournament, and we might even play them again.
Noble and West Hartford, Connecticut, were scheduled to play at Little Wrigley later Saturday with Andy Valley and Weymouth, Massachusetts following in the early evening. Laguna, Calif., and Meridian, Idaho, were scheduled to play at Maine’s Fenway Park in Oakland with Green County, Ky., and Shenandoah, Va. set to close out Day 1 under the lights.
These teams have taken a long time to take advantage of what the area and the two gaming facilities have to offer. The East Side team stayed after their game to watch Ararat and Central Vermont, and their players, many of whom are Cubs fans given South Bend’s proximity to Chicago, were won over by Little Wrigley.
“We love the place, and we love it here in Waterville,” Gillis said. “We hope to do some sightseeing while we are here. It’s been a great few days already.