By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – When it comes to defense, the Cubs from Edgewood Little League displayed a competitive edge in that department over all its rivals in City Series play during 2018.
And that effort led to the championship as Edgewood defeated the Forestville Pirates 4-1 from Frazier Field on Thursday, Aug. 23 – claiming the City Series crown in the process.
Edgewood swept all the competition, going 3-0 in tournament play, and brought the trophy back to the Little League program for the first time since 2014.
Kamden Laprise, who started on the mound for the Cubs, threw 4.1 innings of one run, three-hit ball.
He allowed just three hits, struck out six and pretty much dominated from start to finish.
“I was real confident,” said Laprise. “With the football curve [pitch], coach had a lot of confidence in me so I just threw it. I [felt] pretty good today. I don’t know, I’m kind of speechless.”
Gabe Paghense pitched well for Forestville, allowing three hits, three runs – two unearned – while posting 10 strikeouts in a tough-luck effort.
Ultimately, three errors in the fourth inning doomed a very good effort by the Pirates.
“We had a couple misplayed balls,” said Pirates coach Corey Simard. “We weren’t swinging the bats like we should, like we were.”
Even as the Pirates nabbed a 1-0 edge in the game, Edgewood stuck to its defensive plan and when its offense got runners on base, it’s aggressive style of play produced runs to seize ultimate control of the engagement.
“Cubs baseball is being tough on defense and making the right plays,” said Edgewood coach Ryan Jaswell. “We had some amazing catches in the outfield, going after balls. We work on that all practice long. We play fun games in practice to make sure we focus on defense and these guys hustle and make big plays. I expect that out of them at this point in the season.”
In the first inning, Edgewood’s Jacob Stringer (2-for-3, walk) lined a shot off Gabe Paghense’s glove for a base hit but the Forestville chucker tallied two strikeouts in the frame to get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the tilt, Aiden Lopez smacked a single up the middle but was thrown out at second trying to steal a base.
And Laprise struck out two during the frame as the game was quickly into the second inning.
The Cubs’ Isaac Roberge dropped a base hit into center to start another rally but Gabe Paghense ended up fanning the side.
With one out in the second, Forestville’s Alex Maldonado walked, took second on a passed ball and when Kaden Paghense launched a single into center field, the lead runner came around to score as Forestville picked up a 1-0 lead through two innings of work.
Gabe Paghense was simply cruising on the mound – striking out four straight and six-out-of-seven at that point of the showdown – before Connor Cyr drained a single to center and when Stringer smoked a double to nearly the same spot, runners were on second and third two outs.
“I knew without [teammate] Chase [Mendela], that we all had to step up our game defensively and offensively,” said Cyr. “I think we brought that today.”
Cameron Roy was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Edgewood.
And on a full count, Gabriel White drew a base-on-balls as the RBI tally scored Cyr to notch the score up at 1-1.
In the top of the third, Forestville put a couple men on as Matt Harkey slammed a deep single to the gap in left and when Gabe Paghense walked, two runners reached base without the benefit of an out.
But then three straight putouts ended the inning and despite runners getting to second and third, that go-ahead run did not come to pass as the game was still all tied up at 1-1 going into the fourth stanza.
The Cubs started the fourth off with James Meyers (1-for-3, double) reaching base via error and when Ryan Stickels dropped a grounder to the right of the mound, the throw to first went wild and runners were on the corners.
And then Cyr smoked a shot to third base but the ball slipped through to the outfield and on the miscue, two runners scored as Edgewood ramped up a 3-1 lead – ending Gabe Paghense’s outstanding evening on the mound as Greyson Pierce took over pitching duties due to the pitch count rules.
Forestville got a runner on in the bottom of the fourth but did not produce a run and going into the fifth, the Cubs were still on top by a 3-1 push.
“I don’t think they made an error the whole tournament,” said Simard of Edgewood. “In the two games I played them, I don’t think they made an error the whole tournament and that’s what it is. It’s pitching and defense.”
Pierce and Lopez had the pitching duties in the fifth for the Pirates and Meyers greeted the second relief pitcher with a loud double to center with two outs.
But nothing came of it as Forestville still had two runs to make up.
A misplayed ball allowed Gabe Paghense to arrive at first base safely with one out in the bottom of the fifth as the tying run came to the plate.
But Edgewood reliever Gabriel White induced two outs and going into the sixth, the Cubs still led 3-1.
And then Cyr stayed hot at the plate.
After Stickels walked and moved to second on a fielder’s choice, the slugger smoked an RBI single to right and off the insurance tally by Cyr, the Pirates trailed 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth.
White ended up with the save as he threw a 1-2-3 inning, leading Edgewood to the 4-1 win and the City Series championship.
“That’s the only thing I’ve been telling the guys, keep your head’s up,” said Simard of his Pirates. “You did fine. Did you lay out everything on the line? Yes. That’s all we can ask.”
The Cubs battled from behind to get the win against the Pirates but Laprise and company never gave in to claim the City Series trophy.
“I had huge hopes for the whole team,” said Laprise. “I knew we would get far in the season.”
Comments? Email mletendre@BristolObserver.com.