WESTPORT, Conn. – The Westport Little League All-Stars play for the New England championship Saturday in Bristol. But the team sank its roots in the summer of 2011, when its members began to show off their unusual abilities.
Westport plays Lincoln, R.I., in Saturday’s New England championship game at 7 p.m. in Bristol. The game will be televised on ESPN, and the winner advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Westport has been perfect this summer, rolling to a 17-0 record in District 2, Section 1, state and New England competition. The All-Stars sewed up a berth in the championship game with a 3-0 win over Saco, Maine, on Thursday.
Westport has been building for this summer’s run over the past few years. In 2011, Westport won the District 2 title and advanced to the Section 1 title game before losing to Edgewood. Last year, Westport’s 11-year-old All-Stars had its season cut short in the District 2 tournament by Fairfield National.
While some faces have changed over the past few years, the team’s leaders have been part of a tremendous three-year run. Harry Azadian and Chad Knight have been the pitching anchors. Leadoff hitter Chris Drbal has been an offensive catalyst every summer. Max Popken, Max Stone, Drew Rogers, Alex Reiner have also been on the Westport team for three consecutive years. Manager Tim Rogers and assistant coach Brett Reiner have also been on board for that run, too.
This summer’s run has been particularly rewarding. In the District 2 tournament, Westport knocked off Fairfield National twice to claim the title. In Section 1, Westport twice defeated the Edgewood team that denied them a chance at a state title two years ago.
Rogers knew two years ago that this team could be special.
"Our emphasis is on team defense and pitching,'' Rogers said. "Our pitchers all threw strikes, but they put the ball in play. … Our defense has been amazing all season long."
The quote from Rogers came in the summer of 2011. Westport has followed the same formula two years later. It might be a formula that can carry the squad all the way to Williamsport.