Waterford wraps up NE crown
Manchester, N.H. - Revenge is a common motivator in sports, and Waterford's 15-year-old Babe Ruth team got just that and more on Thursday night.
Jake Gannon pitched a four-hitter with three strikeouts and Dan Castelpoggi scored the winning run on a wild pitch as Waterford edged Manchester, n.H., 3-2, to win the New England championship.
That's Manchester, which knocked Waterford out in last year's New England 14-year-old final.
That's Manchester, which played host to the tournament at Gill Stadium.
Now that's how you avenge a loss.
"This is who we wanted to face this year," Castelpoggi said. "We wanted to beat them."
Gannon said, "We finally got 'em."
Waterford heads to the World Series at Longview, Wash. The Series runs from Aug. 21-28.
It was Waterford's second Babe Ruth title in seven days. It won the 13-year-old New England championship on July 31.
"Some of these guys have brothers on the team," Waterford coach Dave Laffey said. "That was a driving force."
Waterford won Thursday's game thanks to baseball's two cornerstones, pitching and defense. It didn't make an error. Manchester made five, and its final error set up Waterford's winning run.
The game was tied at 2 when Castelpoggi led off the sixth inning with a groundball. He reached safely on an error. He then stole second and took third on Chase Speller's single.
Castelpoggi scored on a one-out wild pitch to push Waterford ahead, 3-2.
"After that (error), I just knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity," Castelpoggi said, "and I knew I was going to score."
Laffey said, "We got a break. The ball bounced away, and luckily we had our fastest kid on third base."
Manchester's Jason Derome led off the bottom of the seventh with a towering fly ball that looked as if it would get past leftfielder Speller.
No way. Speller chased the ball down for a spectacular running catch.
"That catch was amazing," Laffey said. "That saved the game. Who knows, they get a leadoff double there, who knows what happens, right? He makes that catch, and it kind of takes a little bit of life out of them."
Castelpoggi said, "After that, we knew we had it."
Gannon retired the next two batters, finishing the game with a strikeout.
Both teams scored twice in the first inning. Waterford's Mike Rocchetti was hit by a pitch to lead off the game, and Corey Conderino walked after being down 2-2 in the count.
Both runners advanced one base on Castelpoggi's fly out to right field, and Speller was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Justin Keating followed with an RBI single to score Rocchetti, and Conderino scored on an error to give Waterford a 2-0 lead.
Manchester loaded the bases on a fielder's choice, a walk and a hit batsman with one out in its half of the first inning.
Gannon walked Pat Swanson to force home Riley Denver, and Jon Robinson scored on a fielder's choice to tie the game.
"(Gannon) settled right down," Laffey said. "I grabbed him between the first (and second) inning and said, 'Hey, we can't play defense against two walks and a hit batter. … You've got to settle down and take it home. You'll be just fine. You just have to have confidence.'"
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