Runs are hard to come by, if you’ re an opponent of the Camden-Rockport Little League All-Star team this season.
The 11- and 12-year-olds on Paul McFarland’ s squad have notched three shutouts and given up a total of 20 runs in eight games en route to eight straight wins, a district championship, and what’ s believe to be a first for any Camden-area baseball team.
“Never before has there been a team from Camden that’ s won states in Little League,” said McFarland.
McFarland has coached youth and Little League ball for 15 years, but is helping to make history as a first-time coach of the 11-12 all-star team.
“These kids are getting seven to nine strikeouts a game, so it starts with our pitching,” said McFarland. “Everyone has a good quality No. 1 pitcher, but we have two, which helps out tremendously.”
Nos. 1A and 1B are righthanders Caleb McFarland, the youngest of Paul’ s three sons, and Chandler Crans, respectively. McFarland is 4-0 and Crans is 3-0 with two complete games. Both starters seem to have water running through their veinsabout as cold as the stuff McFarland sells while running O’ Hara Ice. Then again, their teammates also appear to be cool under fire.
“I think a lot of it is just that this group is well-rounded, but I think a lot of it is a psychological thing in terms of confidence,” McFarland said. “These kids just had to believe they could win and they do.”
The first big test came in the District 2 tournament when they defeated annual contender and favorite Waldo County not once but twice (6-2 and 5-1 in two straight games). The second came at the state tourney when they faced defending champ Saco, which battered Camden-Rockport 17-1 last year. The rematch resulted in a 9-7 Camden win in the state championship game.
Caleb McFarland also leads Camden-Rockport’ s offense, hitting .600 in the district playoffs and .750 in states. He has hit six home runs out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Crans sets the table as the team’ s leadoff hitter and is batting .500 with three homers. Both players play shortstop when not pitching.
Other key hitters include cleanup hitter and catcher Jack Orne (.480), No. 5 hitter and first baseman Myles Safford (.400, 2 home runs), and No. 2 hitter and center fielder Patrick Weferling.
The rest of the roster includes second baseman Isaac Filderman, right fielders Matt Vitagliano and David Richards, third baseman Elazar Allwine, left fielders Colin Morse and Aaron Nolan, and utility outfielder Sam Cloyd.
“Our lineup tails off a little after the top five, but it’ s still strong, one through nine,” McFarland said.
Even with a couple of sluggers on the team, Camden-Rockport likes to run and pressure opposing pitchers and defenses.
“We’ re pretty aggressive on the basepaths with fakes and delayed steals,” McFarland said. “We like to create a little bit of confusion and chaos.”
Alazar has also served a key role as closer with one win and three saves.
Besides pitching, Camden-Rockport also counts defense as a strength. In a three-game stretch, the team turned three double plays and threw out an opposing runner going from second to home from right field.
With its last game coming last Sunday, the team has concentrated on fundamentals at practice all week. The team will leave for Bristol, Conn., on Thursday morning and play Connecticut champ Shelton National in its first game at 8:15 p.m Saturday. The tourney features two three-team pools and some of the games will be televised live by New England Sports Network.
To their credit, Camden-Rockport’ s players don’ t seem to have gotten too caught up in the excitement. They’ re focused on continuing to play ball.
“I think the parents realize what they’ ve accomplished more than the kids, which is good,” McFarland said. “They haven’ t really made too much a tremendous deal out of it yet.”