GRAY — Just one year removed from playing on his town’s Little League all-star team, Simon O’Brien of New Gloucester said there are three key reasons why this year’s Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond baseball team is now in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, preparing for the Little League World Series.

“Gray-New Gloucester has had good baseball, but we’ve never been able to make it that far. This year, it’s been the right players, the right coaches, the right chemistry. It all works out,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien was with his family at Birchwood Brewing for a watch party Thursday night. The small dining and craft beer establishment, located in the Gray Plaza, was jam-packed with supporters, young and old, co-owner Stacy Strattard said.

The Maine state champions clinched the New England Region title in a tense 2-1 win over Canton, Massachusetts, with relief pitcher Caleb Barker striking out two batters with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second in the top of the sixth inning.

Catcher Mason Amergian dropped the final strike briefly and then quickly grabbed the ball and applied a tag for the final out. Canton asked for a video review, leading to several agonizing minutes to confirm what was clear on the video, that Amergian had applied the tag before spiking the ball and joining his teammates in celebration.

“The review took like 10 minutes,” O’Brien said, in a bit of exaggeration. “Once they finally said he was out, it was like bonkers.”



Gray is just the fourth team from Maine to qualify for the Little League World Series, joining Suburban Little League (Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Falmouth, Westbrook) in 1951, Augusta East in 1971 and Westbrook in 2005.

“I have no doubt that they’re going to go far. There’s no doubt they’re going to represent Maine well,” said Danielle Ouellette of New Gloucester.

While some of Thursday night’s hometown celebrants were still sleeping, the 14 Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond all-stars and their coaches boarded a 7 a.m. bus in Bristol, Connecticut, site of the New England Region, to go to Williamsport, arriving there around noon.

By 4 p.m., they had toured the complex, picked up their credentials, and gone to the 40,000-seat Howard J. Lamade Stadium, where the United States half of the tournament will be played. Ten teams from the United States and 10 international teams qualify for the World Series. The international games are played at Volunteer Field.

“We’ve already done so much. It’s quite overwhelming and breathtaking all at once. These kids are in baseball heaven,” said Mike Amergian, one of the team’s assistant coaches.


Maine, now known as “New England” on the Little League bracket, will play its first game at 3 p.m. Thursday at Lamade Stadium, technically in South Williamsport. The opponent will be the Northwest champ, Northeast Seattle, which beat Alaska 12-1 in its regional final.

Northeast Seattle won its three regional games by a combined score of 33-1. Maine, which is 12-0 overall in all-star play, also went 3-0 in its regional, with a 12-2 scoring advantage.

“Seattle, Washington. Not a small town, on the completely opposite side of the country,” Amergian noted.

If Maine wins its opener, it would next play on Monday, Aug. 21, again at 3 p.m. If Maine loses its opener, it would play at 2 p.m. Saturday. The tournament is double-elimination until the U.S. and International championship games on Saturday, Aug. 26. The World Series championship game is Sunday, Aug. 27. ESPN stations have all the games until the three championship games, which will be aired on ABC.

Like all Little League competition, the games last six innings unless a tie requires extra innings.



Ouellette, a mother of three, said her two youngest kids played in Little League, and she sees a clear difference between this year’s 11- and 12-year-old all-stars and past groups.

“Their composure during the game, from what I’ve seen, is different from other teams,” Ouellette said.

Andrew Sanborn, who co-owns Birchwood Brewing with Strattard and Wes Hewey, said the quality of play has come a long way from when he played in the Gray-only Little League in the mid-1990s.

“I played on the all-stars, but I didn’t even know what the Little League World Series was until I was an adult and saw it on TV,” Sanborn said. “Just the cognitive awareness on the field that these kids have really comes through when you watch the game.”

“It has a lot to do with coaching,” Sanborn added, noting that Amergian and head coach Brad Shelley are hometown guys. Assistant coach Travis Gilmore, a graduate of Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, has lived in town for over a decade.

Rich Peterson of New Gloucester has lived in the community for over 20 years.


“What’s special is that this is about the community and just being proud of where we live,” said Peterson, who also attended Thursday’s watch party at Birchwood. “What was refreshing for me was seeing all the other 11- and 12-year-olds who weren’t on the team also supporting their friends. Last night was so fun. I get chills thinking about it.”

Peterson said the Little League success has captured the attention of non-sports fans, like his wife.

“When they were playing Massachusetts (on Monday), I had to be somewhere and my wife is online watching the game and she’s texting me updates. She never does that. That just goes to show how cool this is,” Peterson said.

At Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, Principal Rick Riley-Benoit said his office will make sure it sends out emails updating the community about the team’s progress as it has done previously, “though I think everyone already knows. You can’t go anywhere without this being the topic of conversation. And rightly so. This is a big deal.”

Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League has posted on its Facebook page that it will be looking for continued donations to help defray costs for the parents and families who will be traveling to Pennsylvania.

Riley-Benoit said the team is worthy of such support.

“I think this team exemplifies the Gray-New Gloucester student community, the community as a whole,” said Riley-Benoit, about to begin his fourth year as the middle school’s principal. “They’re humble. They’re hard-working. They show great sportsmanship.

“I think that’s why the community is so supportive and so proud,” Riley-Benoit said. “This would be a big feat for any 14 athletes, but the fact that they’re really nice people, that just makes it more.”

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