PORTSMOUTH — Going into last Thursday’s game against New Hampshire, Bob Yates knew his team probably wasn’t going to advance any further in the New England Little League regional tournament for 9- to 10-year-olds.
Portsmouth and New Hampshire each entered the game at the Sen. John Chafee Athletic Complex in Cranston with a 2-1 record. To reach the finals in the pool-play tournament, the stars needed to be aligned perfectly for Portsmouth, which got to represent Rhode Island after winning the state championship over Cranston West July 28.
“For us to mathematically win the tournament, we would have to have gone 20 scoreless innings and then win by one run,” said Mr. Yates. “We kind of knew we weren’t going anywhere after this one.”
Although Mr. Yates and the New Hampshire coach joked about conspiring to “sit on our bats” for 20 innings, the actual game was a wild, no-holds-barred affair.
Portsmouth, which had first at-bats, took an early 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to hits by Justin Parsons and Robbie Yates. Starting pitcher Brewster Mott got into trouble in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases with one out. After a brief mound meeting, however, he struck out the next batter and induced a ground-out back to himself to end the inning.
Strong defense helped Portsmouth in the next inning. New Hampshire got a run in the third on two line drives and threatened for more after a ball got away from catcher Tim McGuire with a runner at third. The runner was called out on a close play after McGuire deftly flipped the ball to Mott, who applied the tag.
Mott reached his pitch limit after three and two-thirds innings and Connor Freitas took the mound in relief. He walked in a run with two outs, and gave up a double that tied the game. New Hampshire then took the lead, 5-4, after a runner scored on a pitch that got away.
Freitas buckled down, however, and struck out a batter to end the inning with runners on second and third. He continued to pitch strong the next inning, when he struck out two batters without allowing a run.
That was it, in fact, for New Hampshire’s bats. Portsmouth scored four unanswered runs in the top of the sixth, thanks to strong hitting by McGuire and Freitas, nifty base-running by Yates, and a couple of walks and a passed ball by New Hampshire.
To snatch a win from the jaws of defeat was nothing new for this team, however.
“That’s how we play,” said Mr. Yates. “I think we came from behind five out of our 10 (post-season) victories.”
Pitcher Freitas got the win, and had two hits with a double and 2 RBIs. Mr. Yates’ son Robbie got three hits — including a triple and an RBI — and scored three runs. McGuire had three hits, including a double and an RBI, while Mott added two hits and an RBI.
Portsmouth finished 3-1 in the tournament and ended up in a tie with Connecticut for second place. Besides New Hampshire, the team beat Maine and Massachusetts, with its only loss coming to Vermont.
“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do in the pool, I guess. But it’s all good. We finished on a high note,” said Mr. Yates.
Duty calls for one parent
At least one proud parent wasn’t able to see his son play in the regional tournament.
Dave Mott, son of Thursday’s starting pitcher Brewster Mott, recently became a colonel in the U.S. Air Force and was re-assigned to California. While Brewster’s team was playing Cranston West for the state championship, his family was moving out of its Portsmouth home.
When it came time for the regional tournament, the family decided they wanted to give Brewster a chance to play. His dad went ahead to California while the rest of the family — wife Tina, Brewster and his 8-year-old brother, Brady — stayed here.
“His dad is in California, and he actually had his award presentation there this past week while his family was here playing baseball. He’s also a diehard baseball fan. It was hard for him to miss (Brewster) playing,” said Mr. Yates, adding that Col. Mott even had to miss the state finals game against Cranston West because he was making a presentation at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The rest of the family have been in Portsmouth “with no place to live, essentially,” he said. Ms. Mott had been staying in a hotel while the Freitas family helped out with sleep-overs for the boys. “At everyone of our practices, Brady Mott and Dylan Freitas — he’s also 8 — would practice with us every night,” said Mr. Yates.
As for next year, Mr. Yates said he’ll coach during the regular season but will give someone else a chance to manage the all-stars, which he suspects will be another strong group.
“Losing Brewster’s going to be a big hit to us, being the big pitcher and number-three batter,” said Mr. Yates. He noted, however, that some other strong players who weren’t on the all-star team this year may play next year.
And even though it was a long season — “It went two months and I didn’t think we had five days off” — Mr. Yates said his boys never got enough baseball. When he tried to wrap up their last practice Aug. 6 before the regional tournament, they protested.
“They said they wanted to go another half-hour.”