SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. â€” They might not have won the Little League World Series championship, but the Cumberland American Little League all-stars proved one last time on Tuesday afternoon why they are champions.
Connor Mastin, Max Hanuschak and Conor Lavallee delivered clutch sixth-inning hits and Colin Cannata scored the winning run on an error as Cumberland roared back from a four-run, sixth-inning deficit to edge Rotterdam, Netherlands, 8-7, in a consolation game at Lamade Stadium.
Not even playing through an earthquake that hit around mid-game -- that players and coaches said they did not feel -- slowed down Cumberland in its final game.
â€śI love the way we ended our season in dramatic fashion like that because thatâ€™s the way weâ€™ve been. Weâ€™ve fallen behind in many a game, big games, and this was a big game, our final game as Little Leaguers together, and to win this game at the Little League World Series is the best way to end our season,â€ť Cumberland manager Dave Belisle said. â€śThatâ€™s how we win. Weâ€™re fighters and that was what this New England team represented this year, a team that fought to the very end.â€ť
The Netherlands scored five runs in the top of the sixth, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 7-3 lead. Three outs away from defeat, however, Cumberland seemingly had the Netherlands right where it wanted it.
Everything remained positive in the dugout between innings and Mastin ignited the game-winning rally when he belted a leadoff double. He scored a batter later on Hanuschakâ€™s single before Chris Wright reached on an error. Lavallee followed with an infield single, loading the bases for Cannata, who was hit by a pitch that made it 7-5.
James Belisle then mimicked his clutch play from the district championship when he delivered a key hit, this time bringing in the tying runs with a hard grounder that was thrown away at second base.
â€śI was walking to the plate and my friends were on base and weâ€™re down two and it was all on me, so I was thinking base hit so we could score the runs,â€ť James Belisle said.
Stephen Dugas produced the winning run a batter later. He belted a hard line drive that was caught at first base. When the Netherlands first baseman tried doubling Belisle off first, the ball skitted away and Cannata crossed home.
Cumberland players and coaches soon engulfed Cannata as its enthusiastic fans erupted with joy. Talk about putting an exclamation point on a historic season in which it became the first team from its league to reach the Series.
â€śWinning that final (New England Regional) game in Bristol felt really good,â€ť Cannata said. â€śBut just to win on this type of stage, this kind of baseball game in front of this many people and this nice of a stadium at the Little League World Series just feels amazing.â€ť
Mastin stuck out seven in four strong innings of work, while Ryan McCormick earned the win in relief. Mastin took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and Jacob Glod produced Cumberlandâ€™s first run in the third inning, slamming an RBI triple that scored McCormick.
Cumberland is headed home Wednesday and will receive a hero-like welcome upon its return. A police escort will guide the all-stars into their hometown where there likely will be a thousand or so fans eagerly awaiting. When Belisle also mentioned that the Boston Red Sox have something planned for the team at a postgame press conference, the eyes of Cannata, James Belisle, and Wright all lit up.
As much as those fans liked the team winning, it appreciated how it won even more. Cumberland came from behind in both the state and regional championships, and yesterdayâ€™s dramatic ending seemed the proper sendoff.
â€śWe want to go back home to our town and celebrate with the people who have been following us since the beginning,â€ť Dave Belisle said. â€śThe kids havenâ€™t seen whatâ€™s been going on back home. Itâ€™s been a frenzy, the whole state of Rhode Island. I guess we gave Rhode Island a very positive light of things to forget about their worries. At least for a couple of weeks, there was something positive happening here in Williamsport with a bunch of young kids who are playing some baseball, working with young kids, and sharing ideas and making friendships that will last forever.â€ť