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Longview, Wash. - If Waterford had any thoughts of making it to bracket play at the Babe Ruth Baseball 15-year-old World Series, Sunday's game against unbeaten Lumber River (N.C.) was a must-win game.
Waterford began the day 0-2 and was coming off a gut-wrenching 13-10, 10-inning loss to Kelso (Wash.) on Saturday night. If Waterford came out looking demoralized, it would have been understandable.
Instead, the New England champions scored four runs in the first inning and didn't wobble down the stretch to defeat the Lumber River, 4-3.
"Awesome, awesome, awesome," Waterford manager David Laffey told his players after the game.
Considering the baggage Waterford carried over from Saturday night's loss, Laffey's assessment was appropriate.
"The way we bounced back today says a lot about these kids' character," he said. "They were a little more focused today coming back after that loss rather than having a day off. When they got here, they were a little bit down, but they were ready to hit when they got in the cage and our infield and outfield warmup was much better."
Waterford, now 1-2 in National Division pool play, took advantage of the wildness of Lumber River starter Branjer Jones from the opening pitch.
Mike Rocchetti was hit by a pitch to start things and Cory Conderino walked. Rocchetti was forced at third on Dan Castelpoggi's grounder to the mound, but Chase Speller followed with an infield hit to load the bases.
Justin Keating singled to score Conderino and Alex Petchark did the same to bring Castelpoggi home.
Back-to-back bases-loaded walks to Ben Pickowitz and Tyler Yeomans made it 4-0 and drove Jones from the mound.
Lumber River reliever McKinley Strickland held Waterford in check the rest of the way allowing three hits and fanning eight, but Waterford already had what it needed.
"Lumber River is a good team and fortunately we got a few breaks in the first inning because the kid was a little wild and walked a few in," Laffey said.
Waterford starter Tyler Howser battled his way through 4 2/3 innings before giving way to Conderino.
"Condo came in the threw strikes. That's what we needed," Laffey said.
Waterford did not commit an error after posting seven Saturday night against Kelso. And the defensive play of the game was turned in by reserve Jake Gannon.
Lumber River had closed to 4-3 and had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth. Chay Locklear drove a liner that appeared headed for the right-center field gap and most likely a tie game. Gannon, who took over second base when Conderino went to the mound, started right at the crack of the bat and then had stop his momentum before coming back left to catch the baseball. He immediately threw to shortstop Rocchetti to double the runner off and end the inning.
Speller, who was named player of the game, had two of Waterford's six hits.
Waterford concludes pool play today against Puget Sound (Wash.) at approximately 5:30 p.m. Waterford was win to get to 2-2 and then get some help in order to advance to single-elimination format which begins on Tuesday. The top three finishers in the American and National divisions advance.