BAR HARBOR, Maine — The success of the Scarborough Little League baseball team this season comes from a number of different factors, but no element stands out more than the team’s chemistry.
With six of the 12 players on the team having played together since they were 9 years old, Scarborough has been able to pair its talents with a familiarity of strengths and weaknesses to overcome challenges.
“The reason this team has been successful isn’t because of home-runs or dominant pitching per say,” said Scarborough coach Neil Pratt. “It’s because they have played together as a team and have had each other’s backs through everything.”
The District 6 champs showcased their hard work and experience in a 12-1 five-inning victory over D5 champ Dirigo on Wednesday to capture the state Little League crown for ages 11-12.
Scarborough will now head to Bristol, Conn., for the Little League East Regional Aug. 3-12.
Scarborough was propelled by three four-run innings to go along with a dominant pitching performance from starter Jared Brooks.
After coming out slow in the first two innings, the Scarborough offense scored four runs in the third. After a bases-loaded walk to Alex Dobecki, Dirigo committed an error on an Ogden Timpson fly ball that allowed Brooks to score. Owen Garrard provided the big blast of the inning with a two-run double to give Scarborough a 4-0 lead.
Pratt noted his team was able to break out in the third because it got back to playing “eye-black” baseball, a team-proclaimed brand of play.
“I call it playground baseball with focus,” he said. “They play aggressive, fun, and loose like they are on the playground but with the focus and discipline from years of training.”
Scarborough added to its lead in the fourth with a pair of RBI singles from Zoltan Panyi and Dobecki, while Timpson chipped in a two-run double to extend the lead to 8-0.
Dirigo scored its run in the fourth when Noah Bonsant came around to score on three passed balls.
Rattled a bit by a loss of control, Brooks needed to find his groove again.
“I just stepped off the mound and took a deep breath” said Brooks. “After that it was just a matter of resetting and getting back to throwing strikes.”
Scarborough answered in the fifth when Brooks slammed a two-run double in the fifth, putting his team that much closer to the mercy rule.
Two pitches later, Panyi put his team over the top with a two-run home run to center for a 12-1 lead.
“I just felt like I needed to hit a line drive somewhere and win this for us.” said Panyi. “It was so awesome and I couldn’t believe it.”
Brooks picked up three of his nine strikeouts in the fifth to end the ballgame and give Scarborough the title. Brooks was solid, scattering four hits while allowing just the one run and walking one.
“I was able to get the outside corner from the umpire for most of the game and my curveball was dropping in nicely on batters,” said Brooks.
“With Jared it’s all about recognizing he doesn’t have to do it alone,” added Pratt. “When he realizes that, then he can focus on taking it one inning at a time and nobody is better.”
Brooks and Panyi each had four hits to lead Scarborough, while Connor Kelly and Dobecki added two hits apiece.
For Dirigo, Nate Howard, Derrick Dyer and Bonsant each had singles.
Pratt was very happy with the balanced attack, but can’t bask in the win for too long with the trip to Bristol just a week away.
“We need to continue to get our reps in and make sure we are mentally sharp,” said Pratt. “There may be a team that can hit better or play defense better, but we are a well-rounded team with no identifiable weakness.”
Even with a long road ahead, the team has solidified its impression on its coach no matter what the outcome is from this point forward.
“It’s the smartest group of players I’ve ever seen at this level,” said Pratt. “They don’t realize how good they are and will not realize it until they are grown up.”