Hoping to make dream come true

Hoping to make dream come true

Big-hitting Lincoln Littlers look toward New England title

LINCOLN - Marty Gaughan is thankful that someone invented pitching screens.

The L-shaped screens are used during batting practice and protect the pitcher by capturing line drives in its netting.

"The way that these kids have hit, and I throw to them every day, I'd be dead if it weren't for that screen," said Gaughan, a coach for the Lincoln Little League Majors all-star team which is on its way to Bristol Conn., to compete for the New England championship after winning the Rhode Island title last week.

This year's team is the first from Lincoln to win the state championship since 2009 and is being compared to that squad, also loaded with hitting. The 2009 team got to the New England finals before losing in the final inning.

During its run through District IV and then the state tournament, Lincoln outscored its opponents by a whopping 102-12 margin. Its closest game was the very first one against the Cumberland Americans, when Lincoln scored an 8-4 win.

"We've had eight of the 13 kids on the team who have hit homers," said manager Matt Netto. "We're very deep and the kids who don't start could be. Williamsport? I don't expect to go, but I'm hopeful."

Lincoln teams have made it to the World Series twice, the last time in 2004. The only other District IV team to make it there was the Cumberland Americans in 2011.

Being so dominant in the tournament has had its drawbacks.

"We've only been able to show about half of the pitchers that we have on this team because most of the games have gone four innings," said Netto. "The other thing is that we would love to get more playing time for everyone, but that's hard to do in four innings, although we've managed to get everyone into every game."

While the bulk of the pitching has been handled by Kyle Marrapese, Dom Cunha and David Bordieri, there are several other team members who are more than capable of taking the mound.

Offensively, the team has been monsters.

"We've really been raking, but the thing we pride ourselves in is defense because we've got an excellent fielding team," said Gaughan. "The only problem is that we have not been tested. We expect that will change in Bristol."

The Lincoln boys say they cannot get enough baseball and are always anxious to report to practice. They have a workman-like approach to the game.

"There is never, ever a problem getting them to focus," said Gaughan. "They approach it like it's their job and they expect to win and when they do, they just accept it. I had to order them to celebrate and run around the field with the state championship banner. Each and every one of them had the same mind-set from the beginning, and that was to get to Bristol, and now we're there."

While they instruct their troops hard during practice, it's been fairly easy for the coaching staff during games.

"What do you tell the kids to do differently when they get out to a 9-0 lead in the first inning?" asked Gaughan. "These kids are amazing."

Their journey together started when they were 8 years of age and played in Pawtucket's Andreozzi Tournament, where they finished in second place.

Since then, they have remained together, playing in various tournaments, where they almost always finish in the top four.

When the boys were 10, they were the Rhode Island state champions and played in the first New England Tournament for 10-year-olds hosted by Cranston Western, and placed second to Waterford, Conn.

Last year, four of the team members, Marrapese, Andrews, Bordieri and catcher Connor Benbenek, were all selected to play on the Majors all-star team. The rest of the team remained together and despite not having four of their best players, placed second in the state tournament.

"They've been there before and know how to win," said Gaughan. "Every one of them plays AAU baseball and they all have a very high skill level."

The coaching staff said that team members are as close off the field as they are on it.

"Everyone has everyone else's back and if there's a mistake made, no one complains," said Gaughan. "They know they are a team and they are on a mission."

The team opens play on Friday, Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. against Saco, Maine, then takes on the Massachusetts champion on Sunday at 2 p.m., all at Breen Field at the Giamatti Baseball Complex. Lincoln returns to pool play on Monday at 2 p.m. against South Burlington, Vt., and concludes pool play on Wednesday against Rye, N.H. The top four teams earn a berth into the semifinals on Thursday and the championship game will be played on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 7 p.m.

Members of the Lincoln team are Stephen Andrews, Connor Benbenek, David Bordieri, Braedon Carney, Dominic Cunha, Aaron DeSousa, Marty Gaughan, Patrick Gribbin, Nathan Kumar, Zarek Larisa, Kyle Marrapese, Tyler Santilli and Blake Zaniol. Netto is the manager and Gaughan and Gordon Zaniol are coaches.