Local teams thrive on SLWS thrill

Posted Aug. 21, 2008, at 7:22 p.m.

Devin Lyshon has played plenty of baseball games in front of 50 or 75 fans – fans extremely dedicated to the fortunes of his team or his opponent, but nevertheless a smattering of support that reflects the competition for free time during the brief period between heating seasons here in Maine.

So given the opportunity to display his skills before a thousand or more fans Wednesday night at the Senior League World Series, Lyshon reveled in the opportunity.

“Being in this type of game is awesome,” he said.

That Lyshon and the host Maine District 3 champion Bangor Senior League All-Stars lost that game 10-9 in eight innings to U.S. South champion Boynton Beach, Fla., was disappointing in its immediate aftermath.

But just getting to participate in this Little League baseball world championship for 14- through 16-year-olds is a special opportunity for a select group of local players each year.

For the world really does come to Bangor, giving the survivor of the Maine District 3 playoffs the chance to match their skills against the best from the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America and Asia Pacific.

And perhaps make some memories along the way.

“The thing about this game is they’ll always remember the fun they had,” said Bangor manager Ron St. Pierre after the Boynton Beach thriller. “Some of them have their heads down right now, but they had fun tonight. They have to remember they had fun, and that this is a lifetime experience.”

Indeed. The chance for kids to test their skills doing something they love in front of a large crowd – whether it’s a baseball game, a one-act play or a public speaking contest – is a rite of passage that literally can set the stage for success in future endeavors while at the same time providing bountiful memories.

Take Lyshon. His two-run single in the top of the third Wednesday sparked a seven-run rally that wiped out an early 5-0 Boynton Beach lead.

Then he came on to pitch, allowing just one unearned run over 4 1/3 innings as Bangor went on to force extra innings against one of just three teams in the 10-team SLWS field that remained unbeaten entering Thursday’s final day of pool play.

“At first I had a thought that we weren’t doing our best but then we all just rooted each other on at bat and in the field,” said Lyshon. “Then we started coming back, and we had that great feeling that we were going to win so we kept battling until the final out.”

That’s a lesson hard to replicate in any classroom. Let’s face it, the host team in such an international tournament isn’t supposed to win many games, let alone the whole thing.

But Maine District 3 teams during the seven years the SLWS has been held at Mansfield Stadium have been largely competitive – perhaps never more so than this year.

Bangor led in each of its four games, and its win over Makati City, Philippines, came by the 10-run rule while losses to the two semifinalists to emerge from its pool, Canadian champion Whalley Little League of Surrey, British Columbia, and Boynton Beach, Fla., came in the late innings or beyond.

Thursday’s 13-6 loss to Pearl City, Hawaii, was a bit anticlimactic in the wake of the Boynton Beach game, but even in that contest Bangor rapped out 10 hits.

“They just don’t think they can lose,” said St. Pierre after the Boynton Beach game. “It’s funny to say that because we’ve lost two games, but we’ve given both teams we’ve lost to a scare. I think they know we’re as good as any team in the tournament.”

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