BANGOR, Maine — Opening-game jitters were few to be found for the Hampden All-Stars on Sunday afternoon as the Maine District 3 champions made a successful Senior League World Series debut with a 9-1 victory over the Notre-Dame-de-Grace Little League of Montreal at Mansfield Stadium.
“During the district tournament it was more like we wanted to show up and be focused all the time and make sure we came out on top,” said Hampden shortstop Matt Palmer. “With the World Series it’s more have fun and stay calm and do your best and see if you can come out on top.
“We came out today and we did what we could and it worked.”
Right-handers Tristan Gardner and Cody Lyons combined to pitch a four-hitter and Hampden broke the game open with seven third-inning runs to earn the fourth SLWS victory by a host Maine District 3 team over Canada in as many years.
The win sends Hampden into Monday’s 5 p.m. Pool A game against U.S. Central champion Grand Rapids, Mich., with a 1-0 record, while the Canadian representatives (0-1) will play Latin America qualifier Guatemala City, Guatemala, at 8 p.m. Monday.
In other action, U.S. West (Lemon Grove, Calif.) edged U.S. Southeast (South Beaches/West Melbourne, Fla.) 4-3, U.S. Southwest (Houston) shut out Asia-Pacific (Auckland, New Zealand) 14-0 and U.S. Central (Grand Rapids, Mich.) tipped U.S. East (Auburn, Mass.) 7-6.
Gardner yielded two hits while striking out one batter, walking two and hitting a batter during an economical 72-pitch performance before giving way to Lyons after walking Sam Fagan to open the top of the seventh.
“I was really just trying to focus on that strike zone today,” said Gardner, who will be a sophomore at Hampden Academy this fall. “I knew that’s what would get it done, and it did.”
Gardner induced nine ground-ball outs and was backed by an errorless defense that featured diving catches on shallow fly balls by outfielders Matt Closson and Cody Varney and solid infield play led by first baseman Ben Wheeler, who handled several testing throws while maintaining contact with the base.
“I really focused on being efficient,” said Gardner, “because I felt fine with my fielders fielding the ball. I knew we had great fielders.”
Hampden’s offense generated seven hits, including a double and single by Palmer, and the District 3 champions capitalized on nine walks issued by Canada pitching — with five of the batters who walked coming around to score.
“In tournament play you’ve got to stay aggressive,” said Hampden manager Basil Closson. “Even if you make mistakes, make the mistakes aggressively, and I think we stuck to that motto during the whole district tournament and we certainly did that again today.
“We were very selective at the plate and we took advantage of all the opportunities that were presented to us.”
Canada was led by the defensive play of shortstop Quintin Foster, who had six assists and a putout without an error at shortstop.
Lyons made Canada starter Jeremie Briere pay for three first-inning walks, blooping a two-out single to shallow center to drive home Gardner and Palmer and give Hampden a 2-0 lead.
Hampden sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third to manufacture seven runs on four hits, three walks, two sacrifice flies and one Canada error.
A walk to Gardner, a ground single to right by Palmer and a bunt single down the third-base line by Martin — Hampden’s cleanup hitter — loaded the bases with nobody out, and prompted Canada to turn to reliever Trevor Lall.
Lall balked home Gardner before Michael Ward grounded an RBI single to right to make it 4-0.
Another balk forced home Martin before back-to-back walks to Lyons and Robert Stowe reloaded the bases.
Andrew Elston singled to shallow center to drive home Ward, and a sacrifice fly to left by Matt Closson produced two runs, the second scoring on an errant relay throw.
Varney followed with a sacrifice fly to center to plate Elston with the final run of the inning, extending the Hampden lead to 9-0.
“Every batter came up looking at at least one strike, then a couple of balks, a couple of walks, and then I get my big four-hitter up there and he lays down a perfect bunt,” said Basil Closson. “I looked at their third baseman and he was about five steps behind the bag thinking [Martin] was going to rip it and he laid down the bunt.
“We just took advantage of the opportunities.”
Gardner lost his no-hit bid in the fifth when Rafael Zapata grounded the first pitch of the inning into left field for a single. But Gardner soon erased that baserunner by turning Jake Titleman’s soft pop-up back to the mound into an inning-ending double play, as Zapata was caught between bases after initially trying to steal second.
Canada scored its lone run in the seventh on Titleman’s two-out RBI single to center.
Other games scheduled for Monday include: U.S. West vs. Asia Pacific, 10 a.m. and Europe-Middle East-Africa (Emila, Italy) vs. U.S. Southwest, 1 p.m.
Pool play continues through Thursday with the semifinals scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday and the championship 2 p.m. Saturday.