Game 4
New England
 2 vs. Southwest 3

Saturday, August 20, 2005
11:00AM ET
Volunteer Stadium

 
Toups is tops as Lafayette walks off with win
Three-run sixth gives Southwest champs opening victory vs. Westbrook, Maine


By Mark Rogoff

The Westbrook, Maine All-Stars have been battling back all summer long, especially recently.

They lost their first three games of the New England regional tournament, but did the unthinkable of advancing to South Williamsport by winning their pool play finale, winning the tiebreakers and beating the favorites in single-elimination play.

In their opener of Pool B play at the Little League Baseball World Series, however, they were the ones ahead, going up 2-0 against Lafayette, Louisiana through five innings.

And this time, it was Lafayette mounting the comeback.

Ryan Bergeron tossed three hitless innings of relief, and Connor Toups’s two-run single in the bottom of the sixth capped a three-run inning, as Lafayette stormed back for a 3-2 walk-off win in front of 6,664 at Volunteer Stadium.

The Southeast champs mustered only three hits off Maine righthander Sean Murphy over the first five innings before connecting for four in the sixth. Despite the lack of hits early on, balls were being hit hard (including a pair of near-warning track shots to right in the second), and it was only a matter of time before the balls started to find some earth.

“No game over here is easy,” said Lafayette manager Mike Conrad. “This is a resilient, gritty ballclub. Typically that’s the way it happens – [the hits] either are going to find holes or not find holes.”

Toups’s game-winning smash into left field found the hole, to say the least. The right fielder was the fifth straight – and last – batter to reach in the inning.

“I just wanted to get a base hit,” said the quiet, soft-spoken Toups.

When asked how he felt about the game winner, he said, “Good.” And when asked if he liked the spotlight after getting the big hit, he said, “I don’t care.”

Brenn Conrad led off the final inning with a double to left-center field. After he advanced to third on a passed ball, Sam Scofield knocked him in with a single to left. Jace Conrad then hit a double to the gap in left-center field. After an unintentional, intentional walk to clean-up hitter Tyler Douglas, Troups provided the heroics.

“Hitting is contagious, and it’s been like that since we started,” Manager Conrad said.

The Maine lead, courtesy of a pair of second-inning solo home runs (both on 0-2 counts) by Nick Finocchiaro and Michael Mowatt, stayed at two runs the rest of the way. Lafayette’s Douglas, who started on the hill, retired the side in order in the third before Conrad summoned Bergeron from the bullpen (from first base, really) to pitch in the fourth.

A two-out walk to Mitchell Chipman in the fourth was the only baserunner Bergeron allowed in his three innings of work. The kicker: he didn’t even pitch in the Southeast regional tournament.

“I just wanted to pitch,” he said. “I knew I was going to do good.”

Manger Conrad credits Bergeron’s success with having a fresh arm. Maine’s Murphy also appeared to have a fresh arm, at least until the sixth.

Murphy was 0-2 in three starts in the regionals, allowing 11 runs (six earned) in his 12.2 innings of work. But he turned the corner in his team’s Series opener, keeping Lafayette off the board until the fateful sixth. He had allowed just one runner to advance to third base before the end.

“He’s a battler,” Maine manager Rick Knight said of his hurler. “He wanted to be out there (for the sixth inning).”

“I thought the kid threw a whale of a game,” Manager Conrad said.

Murphy did work out of a little trouble in the fourth after Sam Scofield led off the inning with a single to left and Jace Conrad worked a walk. Murphy then got Douglas to ground one to second baseman Tommy Lemay, who applied the tag on Conrad and threw to first for the doubleplay. Then with Scofield on third, Murphy struck out Toups to end the inning.

As for Douglas, who trailed 2-0 at the time of his exit, he allowed just one other hit besides the pair of home runs. That was a single by Lemay to lead off the game.

“Our pitcher left two pitches up, and that’s what happens when leave pitches up,” said a comical Jace Conrad. “They hit it out of the park.”

Lafayette goes on to play Owensboro, Kentucky Sunday afternoon. Westbrook next faces Vista, California Sunday evening.

Said Knight: “I think it was Christie Matthewson who said, ‘You learn a little from a win and you learn a lot from a loss.’ I’m happy with the final result. We showed we can compete at this level. The kids took that game hard, but right now as we speak, I’m sure they’re clowning around in the locker room. They’ll bounce back.”

Game Photos

 


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