BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) – Mike Boothby drove in four runs Sunday as Westbrook defeated Cranston West of Rhode Island 7-2 to capture the New England Regional Championship.

Westbrook, which will play in Willamsport, Pa. on Saturday, becomes the first team from Maine to advance to the Little League World Series in 34 years.

“We’ve won three state championships in the last four years and we’ve always had an excellent program. But just getting to the Regionals here in Bristol is an accomplishment. To win it is beyond thought,” said manager Rick Knight.

Westbrook defeated Elliot Avenue Little League of Lewiston 1-0 in the state finals to advance to the New England tournament.

Boothby (2-for-2) cracked an RBI single in the second inning to give Westbrook a 2-1 lead. In the third inning, he connected on the first pitch from Cranston starter Chris DiStefano for a three-run homer to highlight the five-run rally that put the game away.

“I told the kids the better team won today,” Cranston manager Gary Bucci said. “It’s unfortunate that our bats got cold at the wrong time. (Westbrook) just continued to fight. They’re gritty. They just chip away.”

Nick Finocchiaro went the distance, allowing one earned run and four walks while striking out nine. He tossed a four-hit shutout against the Rhode Island club in the first round on Wednesday.

Westbrook, which advanced to the semifinal round despite a 1-3 record in pool play, took a 1-0 first-inning lead when Tom Lemay began the game with a double and scored on a one-out double by Zack Collett. Cranston West struck back later in the inning when Pete Parrella walked, moved to third on an error and scored on a single by DiStefano.

Westbrook took the lead for good in the second on a walk to Michael Mowatt, a wild pitch, a passed ball and Boothby’s single.

Westbrook’s third-inning explosion began when Collett reached on an infield error. Successive singles by Finocchiaro and Mitchell Chipman produced a run.

With two out, Jacob Gardiner ripped an RBI single, setting the stage for Boothby’s line shot over the fence in left field. It was right down the middle, Boothby said.

“It was the first one I hit since the regular season,” he said.

Trailing 7-1, Cranston, which represented New England in the 1996 Little League World Series, scored its final run in the third. Parrella walked, took third on a single by Michael Hayden and scored on an infield hit by pinch-hitter Nick Mattiello.

From there, Finocchiaro shut the door, retiring 10 of the last 11 hitters. DiStefano, who also pitched a complete game, allowed seven hits and walked four but just one of the Westbrook runs was earned. He struck out nine.

The last Maine team to go to Williamsport was Augusta East in 1971. The only other Maine team to reach the World Series was a team representing the suburbs of Portland in 1951.


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