BRISTOL, Ct. - Manager Dave Belisle considers every one of the 13 players on his Cumberland American All-Star roster a reason it’s down in Bristol, Connecticut this weekend for the Eastern Regional Tournament, a reason it has an outside chance to earn a trip to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series
“What you see with this team is they’re picking each other up,” Belisle said. “There have been some situations where we looked like we were going to fold, but someone has picked the individuals up. It’s a team game. It just seems that one through 13 somebody contributed.
“We are not relying on one person,” Belisle added. “We get power from eight kids. We have defense from 13 boys. Everybody puts the bat on the ball and has good at-bats. We are not trying to hide anybody.”
Belisle signals out a few instances where his team showed its no-quit attitude. Two of those occurrences came during tournament play when CALL had to overcome early deficits to pull out a win.
In the District IV finals, Cumberland American erased a 5-1 hole against Lincoln and walked off the field with the championship banner, courtesy of a 12-6 victory at Burrillville’s Sherman Field.
CALL had a similar comeback in the opener of the state tournament when it stormed back from a 3-0 deficit against Portsmouth en route to a 13-3 decision.
“Even though we were undefeated there were situations in some of these games where we put ourselves in difficult situations like the Lincoln and Portsmouth game,” Belisle said. “We seemed like when we got behind, we didn’t panic. I didn’t see it in the dugout. I didn’t see it in their faces. I just saw kids that were playing it inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch.”
Adversity for Cumberland American was never more prevalent then in the district tourney. CALL was playing its six games without one of its star players, Chris Wright, who broke his ankle the second day of practice.
Wright, who attended all his team’s games on his crutches, returned to the lineup for the state tournament and didn’t miss a beat.
He batted over .500 and had two home runs, including a three-run dinger in Cumberland’s title-clinching win over Central Coventry.
“We had him in the five-hole only because I was worried about his ankle. He still wasn’t 100 percent,” Belisle said. “We put him in the five-hole looking to substitute him and he forced us to play him every inning.”
The CALL manager indicated it was a collective effort by his squad during the transition period of not having Wright and then getting him in time for their dominating run at the state tournament at Warwick’s West Side field.
“I’ve got to give Chris credit for being so positive and spirited, to sit there and just watch his colleagues play.” Belisle said.
“I also give credit to this team. We were missing one of our best players, if not our best player, and to pick it up and not miss a beat without him not being there.”
“I think he was the juice that we needed for the states. The kids promised Chris and Chris promised them in June that if we got to late July or early August, he might be there. There he is, he’s there and the kids kept their promise. That’s a true story. They kept their promise.”
Cumberland American will play four games during pool play of the regionals, beginning with a 2 p.m. showdown this afternoon against Andover (Mass.) National.
The Andover squad is similar to its hot-hitting rival. On their way to an unbeaten 4-0 mark in the Section 4 Tournament, the Massachusetts’s team batted .518 with 19 homers. Andover out-scored it opponents by a convincing 62-15 margin.
Andrew Selma was the top hitter for Andover during the sectionals, going 12-for-14 for an .857 average. He also drove in 10 runs and scored nine times. Daniel Walsh at .750 (9-for-12) and Cedric Gillette at .818 (9-for-11) also contributed greatly to the offensive production.
Cumberland American will play three more games next week. CALL faces Goffstown (N.H.) on Monday at 8 p.m., battles Fairfield (Conn.) American on Tuesday at 1 p.m. and Barre (Vt.) Community on Wednesday at 10 a.m.
The Fairfield and Barre tilts will both be broadcasted on NESN.
The top four of the six teams in the standings then advance to a pair of semifinal games on Thursday with the winners playing for the New England title and a ticket to Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series on Saturday. NESN with be on hand for the semifinal contests and ESPN2 will televise the finals.