BRISTOL - One swing of the bat changed it all.
Down three runs in the top of the fourth inning, Maine-South Portland American Little League’s Matthew Fogg hit a three-run home run to jumpstart his team. Maine went on to a 7-6 win over New Hampshire Friday afternoon, sending the team to a rematch against Connecticut in the New England Final.
“I knew right when I hit it, it was gone,” Fogg said. “People call me the Rally Starter.”
Fogg has been the leading home run hitter for Maine throughout the Little League Eastern Regional Tournament with two long balls.
“It’s a great time to get hot,” Maine manager Jim Poole said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s got power, he’s got speed and it’s clipped him at the right time. There’s a reason he’s our No. 9 [hitter]. It’s like he’s our extra No. 1 hitter. The Rally Starter himself, and when he starts a rally in front of the top, it ignites them.”
And Maine needed the ignition.
A home run from Aiden O’Connell put New Hampshire on the board in the first inning. Logan Simmons later scored on an error and Jake Webber’s RBI single gave New Hampshire an early 3-0 lead.
It was not until the top of the fourth inning when Maine was finally able to generate some offense. Fogg started the scoring with a three-run home run, followed by a double by Andrew Heffernan. Two batters later, Nolan Hobbs pushed Maine into the lead with an RBI double.
New Hampshire immediately responded back in the bottom of the frame with a single RBI by Ryan Cote, tying the game 4-4. New Hampshire then took back the lead on an error, allowing O’Connell to score.
Ian Wright and Heffernan walked in the top of the fifth, putting them on base when, Johnny Pooles’ RBI double gave Maine back the lead 6-5. Poole stole home when Richie Gilboy struck out to give his team a two-run advantage.
“I saw his mitt, so I thought if I got down on the slide, I definitely would have a chance to get under it and right when he caught the ball I knew I would be safe,” the younger Poole said. “I saw his glove, chest high, and I knew he wouldn’t tag me until my chest and my foot would be on home plate by then.”
But New Hampshire didn’t go away. With one out remaining, Simmons doubled on a line drive to center field and was brought home on an RBI single from Nathan Innerfield to pull New Hampshire within one.
That was as close as they would get. Hobbs caught Webber’s fly ball and ended the game.
“It’s a matter of fighting through it. As a team, there’s nothing these guys won’t battle,” the elder Poole said. “We have to hone in. We have to talk about one inning at a time and believe in it. For these guys to believe and execute are two different things and they just refuse to die. We fought through, we got it going and we won. That’s been a common theme for this baseball team. I am very, very proud of them,”
Maine now gets a second chance at playing Connecticut-Fairfield American Little League today at 1 p.m. Maine was previously shut out by Connecticut 8-0.
“At this point, it’s going to be a great fantastic ride, whoever wins, deserves it,” Poole said. “They’re a great team and we’re going to be challenged enough to play our best.”
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860)801-5096 or email@example.com