The Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League team members flex their muscles during the opening ceremony at Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., on Aug. 16. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

Editor’s note: The Sun Journal sports staff voted on the area’s top sports stories of 2023 and will be counting down the top 10 through the end of the year.

This summer’s Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond 11-12 year old all-stars Little League baseball team went where no previous iteration of the program had gone before.

And then they went farther some more. And some more. And some more.

The three-town team blew through its district tournament, advancing to the state tournament for the first time. They made the most of that first-ever opportunity, going undefeated at the state tournament to move on to the New England Regional. And after sweeping that as well, Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond was off to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“We’re one of the 10 best (Little League) teams in the United States, one of the 20 best teams in the world. It’s just a huge accomplishment,” pitcher/shortstop Caleb Barker said after the opening ceremonies of the Little League World Series in mid-August.

It was a short stay in the tournament for the Maine and New England champs, who went 0-2, but the team’s longest summer ever was still a memorable one.


The team that previously hadn’t advanced beyond Cumberland County stomped the state’s best this summer, including a 12-0, five-inning victory over Augusta in the state tournament final. All four of its wins in the state tournament were by at least five runs, with three shutouts.

Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond hitter Mason Amergian, center, hops onto home plate as he is greeted by teammates after hitting a walk-off homer to beat Augusta 12-0 in the Little League state final game on July 30 in Hermon. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Ace pitcher Kayden Oliver was dominant in the state final, striking out 13 batters and tossing a no-hitter.

“The kid just performs in these big games and he just carries this team on his back,” manager Brad Shelley said after winning states.

The stage got bigger for the team in the four-team New England Regional tournament in Bristol, Connecticut, which also featured the state champions from New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. The games also got a little tighter, but the Maine champs won their opener 3-0 in seven innings (a standard Little League game is six innings) over Salem, New Hampshire, and then beat Canton, Massachusetts, 7-1 to advance to the New England championship.

Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League team was the first team from Maine to reach the Little League World Series in nearly two decades, after winning the New England Region tournament in Bristol, Connecticut, on Aug. 10, and only the fourth from the state to ever qualify. Photo courtesy Nate Stone

Maybe it was the moment, the elongated anticipation or the fact it was a rematch that created a heavier dose of drama in the regional final. Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond had to face the Massachusetts champs again, and the winner-goes-to-Williamsport matchup was delayed 75 minutes because of thunderstorms in the area. Then after six innings of play that saw Maine score two runs and Massachusetts score one, there was another delay as the umpires reviewed Barker’s dropped called third strike. After several tense minutes, the final out was confirmed, and the team could finally break out in celebration.

It was the first time since 2005 (Westbrook) that a Maine team made it to Williamsport, and just the second since 1971 (Augusta).


Northeast Seattle gave the Maine champs a rude welcome in the opener, winning 11-0 in four innings. The game featured four errors from a Maine team that didn’t make many in its run up to that point. The team also trailed for the first time in any of its tournament games.

“Just some miscues on our part that we normally don’t make,” manager Brad Shelley said. “That’s baseball. And then it got away from us.”

Gage Rioux of Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond tosses the ball after making a play to end the top of the second inning during their game against Seattle Little League on Aug. 17. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

The Maine champs played better in their second game, but still suffered a loss that knocked them out of contention for a World Series win. The home-state favorites from Media, Pennsylvania, edged out Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond 5-3, after Maine was able to rally to tie the game at 3-3 in the fourth inning.

Assistant coach Mike Amergian said the team wasn’t out of the game from the beginning (when Media went up 3-0 in the first inning) until the end.

“When I look back on this, I’ll remember most how these 14 boys matured into young men,” Amergian said. “The bonds I have with them, and the other two coaches, are stronger than cement. It’s just been fantastic.”

Amergian’s son, Mason, was one of the team’s 14 players. Most teams carry 12, but Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond wanted all 14 to be part of the team and part of the journey. They came from a pool of 50 players in their town league.

“There are other states that have over 200 out for tryouts,” Amergian said. “It’s amazing what they’re doing in Gray. It’s a great group of kids. So special.”

The team’s other assistant coach was Travis Gilmore, father of player Benjamin Gilmore. The rest of the team included: Brad Shelley’s son, Nathan, as well as Ivan Deemer, Cam Beckwith, Chase Pacanza, Grant Brann, Zachary Feehan Jr., Mason Wescott, Alex Hanlon, Anthony Piccone and Gage Rioux.

The Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League displays a New England champions banner during a welcome-home parade in Gray on Aug. 27. Sofia Aldinio/Portland Press Herald

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