Manchester rallies past Waterford in state Little League baseball opener
Stamford — Once again, the Waterford Little League baseball team is going to have to get through a state tournament the hard way.
Manchester scored three times with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning to rally and beat Waterford on Wednesday night, 4-2, at the Connecticut Final Four Little League (10-12) tournament at Drotar Park.
Waterford will play District 1 champion Wilton in an elimination game on Thursday at the same site at 5:30 p.m. District 6 winner Simsbury beat Wilton in Wednesday’s opener, 6-1.
Waterford came out of the losers' bracket in the District 10 tournament and had to beat East Lyme twice in the championship round to win the title.
“They have been with their backs against the wall,” Waterford manager Josh Sheppard said. “One thing I know about this team is they are resilient. They know how to look adversity in the eye and face it, almost welcome it. Welcome the challenge and then move on.”
Manchester trailed 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the fifth when Sam Luby walked down 0-2 in the count. Arien Peyman followed with a walk.
Jacob Budarz tied the game with an RBI single. Eli Bucko walked to load the bases.
Ryan Gorman followed with a two-run single that proved to be the game-winner.
“Hats off to those guys,” Sheppard said. “They played a little better baseball than we did and that was the key.”
Colby Sheehan pitched well for Waterford. He scattered three hits over 4.1 innings with one run on 51 pitches.
Waterford took the early lead in the first inning. Sheehan walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs. Brooks Lane followed by hitting a grounder to third, but the ball was bobbled, then the throw was too high to first base to score Sheehan.
Manchester’s Alex Rastelli managed to walk after being down 0-2 in the count with one out in the bottom of the third. Peyman followed with a screaming line drive off the leg of Waterford third baseman Jacob Turner for a single.
Budarz followed with a single down the rightfield line to score Rastelli and tie the game at 1. Peyman was thrown out trying to take third.
Sheehan got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.
Lucas Racicot doubled down the rightfield line with one out in the Waterford fourth.
Manchester elected to pull Bucko from the mound after throwing 62 pitches and was replaced by Peyman. Bucko allowed two hits over three innings with no earned runs, four strikeouts.
Dustin Powers walked after being down 2-2 in the count.
Successive passed balls scored Racicot to give Waterford a 2-1 lead.
“I said (to the team), ‘Listen, I don’t want to talk about tonight’s game,’” Sheppard said. “‘We’ll let it go. Move on. That’s the beauty of baseball. There’s always another day.”
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