It’s a good year to be playing for the Elliot Avenue Little League. Elliot’s 11-12-year-old and 13-14-year-old All-Stars are headed to their respective state tournaments.
The 13-14 team will be traveling to Bucksport on Sunday with hopes of taking care of some unfinished business.
Closer to home, teams from around the state will converge at Auburn Suburban Little League starting today for the Maine Major (11-12 year old) Baseball Tournament.
The 11-12 team from Elliot came out of the losers’ bracket last Tuesday to represent District 5 and vie for the state crown against five other teams. Games start at 9:30 a.m., with a team barbecue and opening ceremonies scheduled for noon.
Elliot opens its schedule against Lincoln County at 2 p.m. The tournament continues with three games daily through Thursday’s championship tilt.
Elliot’s balanced lineup produced 47 runs in seven district tournament games, while its deep pitching staff, backed by a steady defense, kept momentum on their side.
“We haven’t played a perfect game yet,” said coach Tom Poto, “but when we’ve needed someone to step up, the boys have stepped up and applied what they’ve learned in practice.”
Poto has five legitimate top-tier starters he can count on for round-robin play. That depth will be tested over the next five or six days.
“We’ve got to keep being consistent with our hitting and hope our pitchers can go a full six innings, or at least five strong innings and bring somebody in to finish it off,” Poto said.
His squad followed that formula to beat Gardiner, 6-2, in the district finals. Sam Morin gave up one hit in five innings, then gave way to Jake Bergeron and Luke Cote to shut the door. Bergeron, Cote, Matt Poto, Jordan Charest, Matt Bouchard and Eric Soucy led the offense.
The Elliot 13-14 squad rode pitching and defense to its state tournament, which opens Sunday in Bucksport. The bats finally came alive in Wednesday’s 18-6 win over Auburn Suburban for the district title.
Coach Jim Hyde has been coaching many of these same players since they were age 9. They went to districts as 10 year olds and to states as 11 year olds. They lost to Westbrook in the state finals two years ago, then lost in the semifinals last year.
“This is a pretty special group,” Hyde said. “They love the game of baseball and they’re looking to put Lewiston back on the map baseball-wise.”
Hyde’s pitching staff, led by Joe Sullivan and Logan Rossignol, is at least five deep, a luxury he hasn’t had in the past.
“One thing I learned at 11 and 12’s, we pretty much did that with two pitchers. I learned from there I had to get deeper,” Hyde said.
Catcher McKay Hyde, 14, who also plays American Legion baseball for Gayton Post, leads the offense, along with Cody Dussault and Ben Wigant. But coach Hyde thinks his team will be tough to beat as long as it focuses on keeping the other team off the scoreboard during the double-elimination tournament.
“I’ve told the kids that defense will win us championship games, and that includes my pitching,” he said.