Middletown Little League moves step closer to World Series
What once was started a mere dream and improbable journey for a group of 12-year-olds from Middletown has rapidly become a very real possibility.
Following an opening-round 6-2 win over Berlin (MD) in their first Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament game, the boys from the Middletown are just two wins away from reaching the mecca: the Little League World Series in Williamsport.
Monday’s victory was another team effort as has so often been the case for this tight-knit group. Starting pitcher James Finer fired five powerful frames before Reid Tully nailed it down on a humid day in Bristol, CT.
In addition to starting off the high-stakes tournament on the right foot, an early win also keeps the team out of the vaunted loser’s bracket and in much more control of their own destiny.
“It’s definitely an advantage to get an early win, otherwise it’s a much longer road,” Manager Tim Naughton said. “Once you’re in the losers bracket, you have to use a lot of pitchers.”
He stressed how precious these days off are in these grueling double-elimination tournaments, especially this deep into the summer heat after playing for more than a month already.
Despite Middletown’s flair for the dramatic with a slew of come-from behind victories, they have never panicked and continuously come through in the clutch. The team is a remarkable 14-2 in play this summer, including seven straight victories.
Naughton attributes that demeanor to the fact that this group has played together for several years and are virtually like brothers.
“Most of these kids have been playing together on the travel teams for the past four, five years,” he said. “Some of even go to school together, so they are certainly a tight group of kids.”
And because of their great start to this high-stakes tournament, the team was free to have a pretty fun and leisurely day, outside of some light baseball work.
Manager Naughton is sticking with what is working and making sure his team has fun with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
So far, their ability to not get too high or low no matter the moment has become an important identity for a team looking to advance to baseball’s paradise.
“That’s the one thing about this group, they don’t seem to get rattled.”
Their next test comes tomorrow, August 8 against New York’s Mid Island Little League.
The Middletown boys will certainly have no shortage of love and support from their hometown as fans are expected to make their way up to Bristol, while those who remain at home will once again flood some of the local establishments, such as Applebees and MJ’s to cheer these boys on.
And who knows, maybe they can catch that Jersey magic 20 years after Todd Frazier led the Toms River East American All-Stars all the way to the Little League World Series title.
Two more wins and they can really start dreaming.