After Bangor East’s 9- and 10-year-old All-Stars lost to Cape Elizabeth in the state championship game two years ago, manager Jason Lewis immediately outlined a futuristic goal for them,
“I knew they had potential at that age and they would also have potential when they got older so we made a goal right then to win the states when they were 11-12,” said Lewis.
They accomplished that goal by going 4-1 in the State Tournament after winning all five of its games in the District 3 Tournament to claim its fourth straight district title.
They lost their second game in the state tourney to Camden-Rockport, 10-5, but beat Cumberland-North Yarmouth 9-3 in an elimination game and then beat Camden-Rockport twice, 9-8 and 6-1, to become the first Bangor-based team to ever win back-to-back State Little League Tournaments.
They are the first repeat state champion since Portland North won consecutive titles in 1995 and ’96.
Bangor East will face Massachusetts champion Southborough in its East Regional pool play opener on Friday at 2 p.m. in Bristol, Conn.
They have four players who went to the Eastern Regional in Bristol, Conn. last year. Bangor East went 0-4.
“There are high expectations. We have four players who have been there and they know what it feels like. We’re trying to use that to our advantage,” said Lewis.
“It’ll be easier for us because we know how fast the pitching is going to be and how good the hitting will be. We know you always have to be ready in the field,” said pitcher Ryan Brookings, one of the four returnees.
“There won’t be as much pressure on us because we know how good the competition is going to be,” said third baseman-pitcher Nick Moore, who feels this year’s team is better than last year’s.
“We have more pitching this year. And we’re really strong defensively,” said Moore.
“Our defense is very solid,” agreed Lewis. “We’ve only averaged one error per game. That’s low for Little League.”
Moore is joined on the left side of the infield by his twin brother, Ryan, who is the shortstop.
Ben Crichton is the second baseman and Liam Reading plays first.
Tyler Mallory-MacDonald is the left fielder, Ethan Dorman is in center field and Joey Moir plays right field. Jeff Lewis, Jason’s son, is the catcher.
Jacob Ireland and Colin Glencross supply Bangor East with two valuable outfielders off the bench and the team’s only two 11-year-olds, Carson Atherley and Dane Johnson, are versatile players who can play in the infield or outfield.
In addition to the Moore twins and Brookings, Crichton is the other player who was on last year’s team.
Moir said one of the keys to the team’s defensive prowess is they spend a lot of time on defense.
“Every practice, we spend 15 minutes to half an hour on ground balls,” said Moir.
“Defense has been our focus,” said Lewis.
Brookings, the Moore twins and Reading have been the mainstays on the mound along with Mallory-MacDonald. Lewis can also give them quality innings.
Bangor East has surrendered an average of just 3.1 runs per game during the playoffs while scoring 7.5 runs.
Bangor East also received an infusion of confidence by winning three games after losing to Camden-Rockport.
“We showed we can rebound from a tough game,” said Crichton. “That gave us confidence.”
Bangor East has a solid lineup, one-through-nine.
“All but one of our players has hit a home run,” said Lewis, who is assisted by Dave Hamel and Rick Glencross.
“Everybody in our lineup can hit,” said Ryan Moore.
The Moore twins, Reading, Crichton and Moir have been the offensive catalysts.
Lewis said losing a game in the state tournament turned out to be a positive for the team.
“We really needed that because it proved to the kids that they can’t just show up and expect to win,” said the manager. “Since that happened, it has been nothing but up, up, up.”
Another plus for Bangor East is its versatility. Lewis said 11 of his 13 players played every position on the field during the Bangor East Side Little League regular season.