Waterford 15s have been down this road before
Groton - Waterford had tradition, a winning attitude, supreme confidence and talent on its side on a steamy Saturday.
So a shaky start did nothing to deter Waterford from its goal of winning the District 6 15-year-old Babe Ruth tournament title.
Waterford rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to beat New London 8-3 in the championship round at Washington Park.
The postgame celebration was subdued.
Waterford, basically the same team that won the 14-year-old state title last year, expected to be in this position heading into the district tournament and made an undefeated run through the bracket.
The next stop is the state tournament, which begins Friday in Simsbury.
"We have a lot of confident guys," Waterford coach Kevin Irvine said. "They've done a lot of great things. They have what it takes to do whatever they want."
The players want to carry on the rich baseball tradition in their town.
"We wear it on our shirts," said Adam Goss, the winning pitcher. "You play for them. You wear your Waterford shirt with pride."
Goss admitted he didn't have his best stuff on Saturday even though he felt good in the bullpen prior to the game.
In the first inning, he struggled with his command, walking in two runs. Jeremy Santos and John Hernandez, who both singled, scored. The deficit grew to 3-0 in the third when Quantique White doubled in a run.
Goss had faith that his teammates would fight back.
"I knew if I hung in there my teammates would pick me up," Goss said.
And they did.
Waterford scored four runs in the fourth to take the lead despite managing just one hit. Losing pitcher Jacob Hollis walked four and hit a batter to help fuel Waterford's outburst.
Pinch-hitter Kyle Chung started the scoring with an RBI single. With the bases loaded and two out, Hollis became upset after he thought he had struck out Dylan Konakowitz, who ended up walking. Then he hit Griffen Archambault with a pitch to score the tying run.
Hollis was replaced by reliever Scott Bailey who walked Goss to score the go-ahead run.
New London's two pitchers issued nine walks.
After falling behind, New London appeared to grow frustrated.
"To be honest, in the fourth inning, two pitches weren't called," New London coach Derrel Mitchell said. "After that, Waterford took advantage and our kids never picked their heads up.
"I tip my hat to Waterford. They're a great team."
Waterford put the game away by scoring two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings. Sam Strout's RBI single, a balk and Griffin Beaney's two-run double generated the runs.
Reliever Mike McDermott finished off New London after coming in with two outs and one on in the sixth inning with Waterford leading 6-3. He loaded the bases before picking a runner off second base to end the threat.
McDermott danced around trouble in the seventh to close out the game.
Goss said the team's goal is to win the state tournament again and return to the regionals.
"We set our standards high this year," Goss said. "We're not going to be happy unless we get to where we want to go."
Irvine is looking forward to spending more time coaching his players.
"They're a tremendous group of kids," Irvine said. "I've really enjoyed coaching them."
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