GOFFSTOWN— Bedford stood slightly taller than Goffstown in Saturday's State Little League District I final featuring players with giant-sized talent dwarfing the Villa Augustina Field diamond dimensions.
Bedford withstood two comeback bids to garner an 11-8 victory in a rivalry game between two perennial powerhouse programs that produced six homers, all no-doubt shots, and 21 hits. Each club struck three dingers, much to the delight of the few hundred hot and happy fans enveloping the field.
Goffstown's Matt Woodward led the slugging parade with two homers and a single, scoring three times and driving home four.
“It seems like every time we step on the field the players make it look smaller,” said Bedford manager Kevin Lavigne, noting that several players hit 10-20 homers each day during batting practice. The victory propelled Bedford (5-0) to next weekend's Little League state championship series against the District II champion, which will be crowned Wednesday evening.
Having outscored the opposition 74-12 in four prior District I tourney games, including an 18-4 victory over Goffstown (4-2), Bedford built an early 7-0 lead with Alec Burns walloping a two-run homer to right, Brennan Hughes striking a three-run shot to right-center and Patrick Harrington plating two runners with a single.
“We've felt confident about winning since our first day of practice,” said Burns who tallied 16 homers this season, with three occurring in the tourney. “We practice hard and stay focused on doing our best.”
Goffstown didn't lose hope. They don't lose very often. The bulk of this 11-12-year-old all-star team reached age-group state championship finals the past three summers. Plus, Jake Hunt and Ethan Skinner were on the squad that won last summer's Little League state championship.
Hunt took a big bite out of Bedford's lead by striking his first-ever grand slam homer to left in the bottom of the third inning.
“I wanted to make a statement and keep everyone up and going for the win,” said Hunt, who pulled an outside fastball to collect his fifth homer of the summer.
“This team is mentally tough,” said Levigne, Bedford's skipper. “If the players make a mistake or have a bad inning they put it behind them and move on. The key today was we never lost the momentum. We answered every one of Goffstown's challenges.”
Bedford's bashers went back to work, plating two runs in their next two trips to the plate. Winning pitcher Grant Lavigne, who had failed to reach base for the first time in the tourney after striking out in a previous at bat, hit a two-run opposite-field homer on a two-strike fastball. It was his eighth long ball of the tourney and 19th overall this season.
“You can't get a hit every time, I guess, but I got a hold of that one,” said Lavigne of his homer. He entered the game going 14-for-15 at the plate, having reached on an error the one time he didn't record a hit. Against Goffstown he drew two walks, homered and whiffed looking at a Skinner two-strike curve.
Goffstown fought back again. Woodward hit a solo shot in the fourth inning and then struck a three-run homer in the sixth inning.
“I was nervous at the plate in the sixth inning but I still thought we were going to win,” said Woodward.
“Bedford's a good team,” said Goffstown manager Sean Skinner. “The kids knew it would be hard but they thought it could be done. They played hard and played loose and made it close. I expect them to do well when they play on the big field next year.”
Today's Little League District II game times have been moved in anticipation of thunderstorms and heavy traffic due to the NASCAR race in Loudon.
The start time for the 11-12 year-old game between Lamprey Rivers All-Stars and Bow All-Stars will now be 11 a.m. The 11-12 Rye All-Stars vs. Hooksett All-Stars game will now take place at 1:30 p.m.
Little League officials have advised fans to allow for extra travel time to Grappone Field for the games due to the extra race traffic.
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Eric Emmerling may be reached at email@example.com.