In 2009, Lincoln captured the District IV and State All-Star Tournaments and then came one win away from Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series after an 11-7 loss to Peabody (Mass.) Western in the New England Region finals.
Last year it was a talented bunch of players from Cumberland National that made the headlines with a nearly identical route of its neighbor. CNLL dominated its foes during the districts, did the same in the state tourney and then fell a run short, a 1-0 setback to Fairfield (Conn.) American in the title game, for a trip to the World Series.
Can someone follow suit in this year’s tourney, which officially got underway this past Saturday with eight teams taking part in opening-round games at Lincoln’s Hien Field? It’s anyone’s guess.
Judging by the results over the weekend perennial power Lincoln, a winner of 16 district crowns dating back to 1991, looks to have a solid ballclub. Second-year coach Matt Netto and his squad defeated East Woonsocket, 10-0, in one of two four-inning mercy rule affairs.
“I think we are very similar to last year’s team,” said Netto, whose squad went 4-0 in pool play in 2010 and then lost a heartbreaking 3-2 seven-inning verdict to Smithfield in the semifinals. “We have depth in pitching. We are pretty powerful up and down the lineup. It’s just how much they want it.”
The other mercy-rule decision on Saturday, an identical 10-0 rout of Burrillville, belonged to Cumberland American, which is under the helm of Dave Belisle, the longtime assistant coach of the famed Mount St. Charles hockey team.
Cumberland National, which this year will be coached by Ray Creamer, also registered a shutout, beating North Smithfield, 5-0. Smithfield won the first game of the day, defeating Scituate-Foster, 6-2.
Just likes it’s done for several years now, the District IV Tournament is split up into two sub-divisions – Pool A and Pool B. After the respective squads play four games during pool play, the top two teams in each sub-division advance to the semifinals at Hien Field, beginning on July 12. The winners of those two games battle it out in the finals on July 15 at Sherman Field in Burrillville for the rite to advance to the state tournament and a chance to earn a trip to the regionals in Bristol, Connecticut.
It’s too early to predict, but today’s matchup that pits Cumberland National against Cumberland American at Garvin Field could show plenty. CNLL fields a squad with no familiar faces from last year’s dominating squad that out-scored its opponents during district play, 87-5, but it does consistently produce quality teams with the town’s outstanding feeder program.
During last year’s tourney, then-CNLL coach John Brodeur indicated that Cumberland American would be one of the top teams in 2011 based on the fact that most of this year’s players captured the 11-year-old state title last summer. A tough 6-5 loss to Burrillville in its opener of the tourney, proved to be the determining factor for CALL not making it to the championship round.
“I watched their game on Saturday,” Netto said. “They are very impressive. They looked outstanding. Cumberland National looked good, too.”
Both Cumberland teams didn’t have a chance to face each other last year because they competed in separate sub-divisions. This year it’s different. National and American will be in Pool B with Bernon, Burrillville and North Smithfield. In Pool A, Lincoln will be joined by East Woonsocket, Glocester, Scituate/Foster and Smithfield.
“Bernon (Woonsocket) has one kid that can throw in the 70s,” Netto noted. “We have a very good division. Whoever comes out of this division is going to be very tough to beat.”
The District 2 Tournament begins this Thursday. East Providence plays host to Portsmouth and Darlington American welcomes Riverside to Slater Park.
District IV Little League Tournament
All games at 5:30 p.m. (unless noted)
Scituate/Foster vs. Lincoln
Glocester vs. Smithfield
Lincoln vs. Glocester
East Woonsocket vs. Scituate/Foster
Smithfield vs. East Woonsocket
Glocester vs. Scituate/Foster
Smithfield vs. Lincoln
East Woonsocket vs. Glocester
Bernon vs. North Smithfield
Cumberland National vs. Cumberland American
Cumberland American vs. Bernon
Burrillville vs. Cumberland National
North Smithfield vs. Burrillville
Bernon vs. Cumberland National
North Smithfield vs. Cumberland American
Burrillville vs. Bernon
at Hien Field, Lincoln
Tuesday, July 12
Game 1: Pool B first place vs. Pool A second place
Game 2: Pool A first place vs. Pool B second place
at Sherman Park, Burrillville
Friday, July 15
Game 3: Winner 1 vs. Winner 2
District II Little League Tournament
Portsmouth at East Providence, 5:45 p.m.
Riverside at Darlington American