BANGOR, Maine — One pitch into his Senior League World Series debut Sunday afternoon, Kyle Alexander reached a telling conclusion.
“Coming into this it was just ‘what are we going to expect,’” said Alexander, a pitcher for the Maine District 3 championship team from Brewer. “But when we got here, we learned it’s just another ballgame. We’re playing a different team, but it’s just another baseball game.”
Alexander went on to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the first and then yielded just one run over five innings. Teammate Jeff Weeks hit a pair of two-run singles as Brewer pulled away from Canadian champion Notre Dame de Glace Little League of Montreal, Quebec, 7-2 in the first game of pool play at the 10-team, seven-day event at Mansfield Stadium following Saturday night’s opening ceremonies.
“I really feel like after the first inning we got the jitterbugs out, we got the nerves out,” said Weeks. “We got through the first error, we got through the bases loaded with one out, and after that it felt like a regular game. We’re just out there having fun.”
This marked the third straight year the host team from Maine District 3 had scored an opening-day victory over Canada in the Little League baseball world championships for 15- and 16-year-olds.
Brewer, a veteran team with 11 16-year-olds on its 14-player roster, committed just one error and turned three double plays in the first four innings until its offense could get untracked to score six runs in its final two at-bats.
“When it comes to this level of play, it’s going to come down to the little things,” said Brewer manager Roger White. “There’s not going to be that many blowouts, there are going to be close games and the big thing is can you handle close games?
“It’s those little things, and whether or not you can make those plays. With the 16-year-olds we have, having gone through the pressure of going through the district tournament the last two years has really helped.”
The Canadian squad, by contrast, has nine first-year Senior Leaguers among its 11 players and committed three errors while also having three runners cut down on the basepaths.
“I’m really proud of our kids, it’s probably their first time of playing on this kind of stage,” said Canada manager Bobby Titleman, whose team was the first Quebec representative in the Senior League World Series since 1987. “We probably didn’t execute a few things, we had some baserunning mistakes and part of that is on the coaching staff and we take full responsibility, but I’m really proud of the way our kids stayed in the game until the late innings.”
Both teams are scheduled to continue pool play Monday, Brewer at 5 p.m. against Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, and Canada at 1 p.m. against Talbot County, Md.
The Brewer-Canada matchup was tied at 1-1 until the bottom of the fifth when Weeks hit a one-out single to drive home Ben Pushard, who had reached on an error, and Alexander, who beat out a bunt single and went to second on a throwing error.
Weeks worked his way to a 3-1 count against Trevor Lall — the third of five pitchers used by Canada — before grounding a base hit up the middle to give Brewer the lead for good.
“I knew I didn’t want to walk, I wanted to get those runs in because I knew they’d be huge,” said Weeks. “I was just looking for a fastball because [Lall] wasn’t throwing many breaking balls, and I just put a bat on it.”
Canada drew within 3-2 on an RBI single by Oliver Singson off Weeks in the top of the sixth but had another potential run cut down when Brewer third baseman Matt Morrow snagged a one-hop throw from catcher Ian Forrest and tagged out Laurent Solliec on a steal attempt.
“It was a one-hop throw but Matty picks it and puts the tag on and that was huge,” said White. “If that ball gets through it’s a tie ballgame and who knows how the game goes from there.”
Brewer then used doubles by Jeremy Bissell, Dan Davis and Evan Pelkey along with three walks and a two-run single through the shortstop hole by Weeks to put the game away with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
“I had confidence we’d get going because we hit the ball great throughout the district tournament,” said Weeks.
Alexander scattered six hits while walking two batters and striking out five on the mound for Brewer before getting relief help from Weeks and Evan Pelkey, who worked a scoreless seventh.
Rafael Zapata and Quinton Foster each had two hits for Canada.
“I could see that Brewer had played in this stadium and been in other big tournaments and were probably used to this environment, and for us this is like going to Iowa, but it’s Maine,” said Titleman. “This is like ‘Field of Dreams’ for our kids. They’re totally enjoying it. I’m sure they wanted to play a solid, error-free baseball game, but that’s baseball.”
Brewer struck first with an unearned run in the bottom of the second. Bissell lined a single to left, then went to third base on a throwing error as Dan Davis was drawing a walk. Bissell then scored on a double-play grounder by Forrest.
Foster singled to open the Canada third, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on a one-out single by Alexis Vargas. Liam Wyatt hit a sacrifice fly to left to drive home Foster with the tying run, but Brewer left fielder Ben Pushard threw out Vargas at third to complete an inning-ending double play.
That was the first run a Canadian team had scored in 17 innings against Maine District 3 competition dating back to 2008.
<span class=”Sports_agate_baseball”>Quebec 001 001 0 — 2 8 3</span>
<span class=”Sports_agate_baseball”>Maine District 3 010 024 x — 7 9 1</span>
<span class=”Sports_agate”>Vargas, Hopkins (3), Lall (4), Punski (6), Wyatt (6) and Carmel; Alexander, Weeks (6), Pelkey (7) and Forrest</span>