CONCORD — Storm alert: Bedford has battered its way through the New Hampshire Little League tournament, and is now bound for Bristol, Conn.
The hot-hitting squad smacked five homers in support of winning pitcher Timmy Saltzman's two-hit shutout, defeating District II champion Lamprey River of Raymond, 14-0, Sunday afternoon to claim the 11-and-12-year-old New Hampshire Little League championship.
The District I champs swept the best-of-three series held at Concord's Grappone Park, earning a berth in the New England Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn. The six-team tourney commences with round-robin play beginning Friday, Aug. 3 when Bedford takes on the yet-to-be determined Vermont champ at 2 p.m. The top four teams advance to a single-elimination format on Aug. 9.
Throughout tourney, undefeated Bedford's batters simply stormed opposing clubs. In seven victories, they plated 108 runs while conceding just 22 and smacked 23 homers. The Bulldogs entered Sunday's title game hitting .460 as a team, reaching base 56 percent of the time while slugging .851.
“They were unstoppable,” said Lamprey River coach Mark Dupuis after watching Bedford outscore his team, 23-2, over the weekend. “We wish them well in Bristol.”
Bedford's first two hits of Sunday's game were no-doubt homers. Grant Lavigne repeated Saturday's feat, of hitting a towering homer in the top of the first inning before being walked intentionally in every at-bat thereafter. It was his 10th dinger of the tourney and 15th hits in 17 trips to the plate.
Facing a formidable foe in Lamprey River pitcher Andrew Dupuis, Lavigne fouled off a sharp-breaking curve before lining a chest-high fastball onto a ledge well beyond the right field fence. Dupuis kept District II foes off balance all summer by mixing his curve, slider, change and fastball.
“I don't know how he hit that pitch,” said Dupuis.
Patrick Harrington, hitting ninth in the order, sent a knee-high fastball over the center field fence, sparking Bedford's four-run third-inning rally.
“I was looking for a fastball. It was the first one I saw and I hit it good,” said Harrington. It was his first homer of the tourney and seventh of the summer.
With the Bedford fans sitting on the center field bleachers chanting, “Let him hit,” as Grant Lavigne was intentionally walked, fellow Bedford teammates made Lamprey River pay for the move.
Catcher Connor Zendzian, hitting over .500 this summer, plated Lavigne and Connor Collins by poking an outside fastball down the right field line in the third. Following Lavigne's fifth-inning free pass, Alec Burns struck a three-run homer. It was his fourth longball of the tourney. Zendzian followed that with a solo homer to right field.
Lamprey River walked Lavigne and loaded the bases in the sixth inning. Two pitches later, Burns plated a runner. One out later, pinch hitter Peyton Murray went deep, hitting his first-ever grand slam, Pitcher Saltzman scarcely needed much offensive support. The 12-year-old righty was masterful, throwing a first-pitch strike to all but two of the 18 batters he faced while striking out five. Only four Lamprey River batters were able to work a two-ball count.
“I threw my Little League curve for a lot of first-pitch strikes. When ahead in the count I had them guessing,” said Saltzman, picking up his third win of the tourney.
Nick Champagne reached on an infield single in the third inning. Saltzman surrendered a one-out single to Tucker Arnold in the sixth inning before his defense ended the game by turning a double play.
Lamprey River players wore smiles following the game. Representing five communities, they advanced further than any other Lamprey River all-star team. Dupuis and Brian Lambert played on last summer's squad that reached the District II title game.
Following the game, beaming Bedford players took turns having their photo taken beside the championship tourney. It was Bedford's first state title since 2005.
“For five weeks they've been practicing every day from 6 p.m. until dark, displaying a lot of effort and a great attitude,” said coach Lavigne while looking at his squad celebrating. “We challenged them to leave a lasting legacy in the Bedford program. I think they took us seriously.”
State Championship Series
Bedford 14, Lamprey River 0
Bedford (7-0) 104-045—14-10-0
Lamprey River (8-4) 000-000— 0- 2-2
Timmy Saltzman (WP) and Connor Zendzian; Andrew Dupuis (LP), Matt Bolduc (6) and Andrew Lufkin Homers: B — Grant Lavigne (first inning, solo), Patrick Harrington (third inning, solo), Alec Burns (fifth inning, two on), Connor Zendzian (fifth inning, solo), Peyton Murray (sixth inning, grand slam)