The Bangor Little League All-Star team is disappointed that it isn’t going to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for the Little League World Series after losing to Massachusetts state champ Middleboro in Thursday night’s New England Regional championship game 10-1 in Bristol, Connecticut.
But by reaching the regional final, head coach Jason Harvey and his team went further than any Bangor team had ever gone before and they are proud of their accomplishment. Their deep regional playoff run also suggests there’s strong years of baseball to come in the Queen City.
The team was seeking to become just the fourth from Maine to win a regional and play in the Little League World Series.
“It’s really cool to be part of a team that made it farther than any other Bangor team and to get just one win away from Williamsport,” said talented center fielder Patrick Guite, who had an excellent tournament, as did Harvey’s son, Jacoby, and pitcher-first baseman Caden Karam.
“Hopefully, there is more to come,” added Jacoby Harvey, a standout pitcher and shortstop for the team.
Bangor came into the game with an 11-0 record after winning five games in the district tournament, four in the state tournament and two in the regional.
That included beating Middleboro 10-4 earlier in the regional but Little League set this tournament up as a hybrid double-elimination tournament, meaning there would be just one championship-round game.
In a normal double-elimination tournament, Middleboro would have had to beat Bangor twice to win it because Middleboro went into Thursday’s game with a 2-1 record while Bangor was 2-0.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best game. But we had a phenomenal run. We can’t let that derail the success this group has had this season,” Jason Harvey said. “That was our first loss. That speaks volumes for what type of team we had.”
Bangor had no-hit Brattleboro, Vermont, 3-0 to open the tournament on Saturday with Harvey (14 strikeouts) and Karam (2 strikeouts) teaming up to strike out 16. Then Karam struck out 14 over 5 ⅓ innings to best Middleboro in the winners bracket game on Monday.
Middleboro earned a spot in the title game by beating Concord, New Hampshire, 11-0 in five innings on Wednesday in an elimination game. Middleboro had nipped Concord 1-0 in their first game.
Jason Harvey said having two days off before the final didn’t help his team’s cause.
“There wasn’t a whole lot to do and their minds slipped a little bit. They weren’t as focused as they were for the first two games,” Harvey said. “And competing for the New England championship adds more pressure.”
He also praised Middleboro’s winning pitcher Jayden Murphy and his team for their performance.
“[Murphy] was good. He threw hard. He was in the mid-70s and he challenged our hitters. Unfortunately, in our district and state tournaments, we didn’t see anybody with that kind of velocity,” Harvey said.
Murphy allowed one hit and one run over four-plus innings with 10 strikeouts.
Cayden Ellis’ first-inning single and Jacob Landers’ three-run triple in the third, both with two outs, staked Middleboro to a 4-0 lead.
“Tip your hat to Massachusetts. They got those two big hits that produced runs. That’s the way the game goes,” said coach Harvey.
“They came out ready to play. They played better than we did,” said Jacoby Harvey, who took the loss on the mound.
Jason Harvey said the state-wide support was overwhelming.
“I’d get 50 or 60 texts after each game and they weren’t just from our community. I got some from people in southern Maine. It was unbelievable,” he said.
Jacoby Harvey and Guite said it was a memorable experience.
“It was cool. The field was amazing and it was very cool to meet kids from other states,” Harvey said.
“It was a lot of fun to get to play baseball with my friends. And it was cool to see how many fans were there,” Guite said.
Coach Harvey was wearing a microphone for the two Middleboro games to enhance ESPN’s coverage and he enjoyed it.
“It was great to experience this with a great group of kids and assistant coaches Danny Hughes and Casey Catell. And the commitment of the families throughout this whole season was way above and beyond expectations,” he said.
Harvey spent 12 seasons as the head baseball coach at Bangor’s Husson University and owns the school record for wins with 284.
He enjoyed his time at Husson but said “this was the best summer I have had coaching.”
“It was phenomenal. These kids put in a lot of hard work. They responded like college players. Their love of the game and passion was great to see. You love seeing kids like this pull together and do something special,” he added.
He will return to coach the team again next year. Bangor had 10 12-year-olds who will move on but Harvey will have three returnees who were 11 this season in Guite and right fielder Mason Bond, who were both starters, along with pitcher-first baseman Max Kenney.
Guite could move in to play shortstop and Bond may be the catcher next year.
Harvey will also inherit players off the 9- to 10-year-old Bangor Little League team that lost to Portland in the state tournament championship round.
Two of the players on that team were Drew Harvey, Jason’s son, and Max Guite, Patrick’s brother.
“I told the kids Bangor baseball is in real good shape the next couple of years. The 11-12s were runners-up in the New England Regionals and the 9-10s were the state runners-up. There’s a lot of baseball talent in Bangor. It will be exciting to watch them the next couple of years and see where it ends up,” Harvey said.
“Next year, we’d like to make it to Williamsport,” said Patrick Guite.