WATERVILLE — Ararat Youth Baseball picked the perfect time Saturday to start making plays.
Unable to score despite putting runners on base early in the game, Ararat came through with two runs in the fifth inning of its Cal Ripken World Series opener against Central Vermont. The team then came through on defense to secure a 2-1 win on a hot afternoon at Purnell Wrigley Field in Waterville.
Ararat fell behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning as a throwing error allowed Central Vermont to score. Although the Sagadahoc County outfit failed to score over the first four innings, strong pitching from Brady Hiltz kept it a one-run game entering the fifth.
This time, it was Ararat that would benefit from defensive miscues as it scored two unearned runs to take the lead in the top of the inning. After great defensive plays by Hiltz and first baseman Garrett Ramsey closed out the fifth, Ararat got two outs with runners on first and second in the sixth to hand Central Vermont its first loss of the season.
“This is a big stage, and there were clearly some jitters early on that I think affected us,” said Ararat co-manager Rob Beal. “We let them take advantage of some miscues early, but as the game went on, we were able to get into it and settle down.”
Hiltz pitched the final three innings to earn the win for Ararat after Daniel Beal and Riley Coombs went 1 1/3 and 1 2/3, respectively. Beal (two singles) and Hiltz (double) also got base hits for Ararat, as did Mason Hunt (double), Jonathan Clemons (single) and Emma Graffam (single).
Although Ararat was designated as the away squad, it certainly felt as if the team, which draws players from Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham, had the home-field advantage. The team had a slight crowd edge over the Vermont team, and its proximity to the central Maine area also added another benefit.
“It kind of gives you a big advantage when you can sleep in your own bed and then drive up here,” Beal said. “You compare with when we played in Florida last year and had to go through fundraising with parents taking 10 or 12 days off work. It’s not to that scale this year.”
The game followed the 10 am tournament opener between Waterville and East Side Youth Baseball (South Bend, Indiana) on the same field. East Side won 15-0 by scoring seven runs in the first inning, one in the second and seven more in the third to enact the 15-run mercy rule that goes into effect when one team leads by such a margin after three innings.
Pitcher Dylan Jankowski and Zach Koontz allowed just one hit over three innings for East Side. David Waite had three hits for the South Bend team, which also got two hits and four RBIs from Jankowski and two hits and three RBIs for Dom Haigh. Maxwell Comforth had the lone hit for Waterville in the form of a first-inning single.
“We just got hot right now, and that’s just kind of how baseball is sometimes,” said East Side co-manager Peter Gillis. “Hitting can be contagious, and that’s what happened in the first inning, but the kids from Waterville are tough and didn’t give in. They’re going to do fine in this tournament, and we may even play them again.”
Noble and West Hartford, Connecticut, were scheduled to play at Little Wrigley later Saturday with Andy Valley and Weymouth, Massachusetts, set to follow in the early evening. Laguna, California, and Meridian, Idaho, were set to play at Maine’s Fenway Park in Oakland with Green County, Kentucky, and Shenandoah, Virginia, set to close out Day 1 under the lights.
Those teams have taken plenty of time to enjoy what the area and the two playing facilities have to offer. The East Side team stuck around after its game to watch Ararat and Central Vermont, and its players, many of whom are Cubs fans given South Bend’s proximity to Chicago, were enamored with Little Wrigley.
“We love the place, and we love it here in Waterville,” Gillis said. “We’re hoping to do some sight-seeing while we’re here. It’s already been an awesome couple days.”
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