W INCHESTER — Throughout play during the Cal Ripken Major 60 World Series, which wrapped up last week, the Robert J. Nutile field was always in immaculate condition.
The infield grass was cut just right, with neatly cropped corners at each base, and the foul lines marked perfectly by powdery, calcium carbonate chalk.
But last Sunday, during a game between El Dorado, Ark., and Visalia, Calif., rain pounded down on the field, quickly flooding the infield and outfield.
However, Claude Barden and 30 mud-soaked volunteers worked quickly and methodically to cover the field, and then returned it to its tip-top shape in time to finish the game. Even the 7:30 p.m. game, between host Winchester and Kingsbridge, N.Y., was played, albeit with a late start.
“It was an amazing performance by a lot of people,’’ said Michael Creane, vice president of the Winchester Sachem Youth Baseball/Softball Association, the tournament host.
One of the things that is fun about that type of challenge, Creane said, “is having the right people knowing what to do. And to turn it into a great team project is a game within a game.
“The field has been prepared to handle it, and it still needed work done. But the games went off like it hadn’t even rained.’’
The aforementioned volunteer services are the main reason the World Series, a 10-team tournament for 12-year-olds, has been such a success.
“Winchester has done a great job,’’ Burlington coach Mike Winn said. “All these people are volunteers, and the mothers of kids that played [when Winchester hosted in 2009] are ambassadors, and make sure things run smoothly.
“This week could’ve been chaos, but the volunteers have been spectacular.’’
For Burlington, the New England Regional champions, the opening week was plenty chaotic.
In the team’s first game of pool play against Kokomo, Ind., on Aug. 9, star pitcher Drew Metzdorf dislocated his elbow in the first inning.
But Winn, who has coached the team of 12-year-olds since they were 8, never doubted Burlington’s ability to bounce back.
Behind the efforts of pitchers Patrick O’Halloran and Justin Hurley, Burlington won the game, 3-2, and finished 3-1 in pool play to earn the top seed in the American Division and a first-round bye.
Then in the second round of bracket play, Burlington advanced to the championship with a 4-1 win over Kokomo on Wednesday night.
“This group has always pitched well, played great defense and got hits when we’ve needed to,’’ Winn said. “They battle no matter what the situation is.’’
With Metzdorf out, Hurley and O’Halloran split the pitching duties, both throwing three innings in each game. “It was tough losing’’ Metzdorf, said O’Halloran, “because it takes a lot out of our pitching.’’
Metzdorf usually plays shortstop when he’s not pitching, but Ben Piotti played in his place. On Wednesday, he jacked a three-run home run in the second inning to give his team an early lead over Kokomo.
But what happened in the championship game Thursday against Visalia, Calif., truly deflated the Burlington club.
Throwing to the first batter, O’Halloran was hit in the side of the head with a line drive and was carted off the field with a concussion.
Hurley came on, but surrendered eight runs to Visalia, which rolled to a 21-0 win to capture its second consecutive World Series crown.
“Some bad luck obviously to start’’ the title game, Winn said, “but it’s hard to complain when you’re here. It’s frustrating to end it this way, but we’re also very aware where we are.
“This is as resilient a group as you can get,’’ he said, but O’Halloran’s injury was “pushing it. That’s about as much you can take.”
Burlington finished the season with a 10-4 record, and took its loss to the defending champions in stride.
“We lost to a [heck] of a team,” Winn said of Visalia.
On Wednesday, Visalia pitcher Jace Chamberlin fanned 18 of the 19 batters he faced, setting the World Series record for strikeouts in a game, while throwing a no-hitter in a 2-0 victory over Kingsbridge, N.Y. “I’ve coached a long time, and that’s the most dominating pitching performance I’ve ever seen,” Visalia coach Frank Durazo said.
Although Kokomo went home early, the tournament was a great experience, according to parent Susan Harding.
Harding and 47 other parents, fans, and friends traveled nearly 1,000 miles on a 17-hour bus ride to Winchester. “We have a very enthusiastic group of fans, so we wanted to bring our whole team and all our fan club with us,’’ Harding said.
Her first trip to Massachusetts was a memorable one.
“For most, it was our first time up, and the people of Boston have been absolutely amazing,’’ Harding said. “I’ve been impressed with all the ambassadors and team moms, and everyone has been so welcoming. I thought we’d have a lot of down time, but they’ve kept everybody busy and always had something going on.’’
Nashua team repeats
as Futures champs
The Nashua Silver Knights repeated as champions in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League Wednesday night, completing a two-game sweep of the visiting North Shore Navigators with a 6-2 win at Holman Stadium.
In the clincher, Lynn native Lamarre Rey, a rising sophomore at Bentley, hurled six innings of two-run ball.
Nashua catcher Dan Gusovsky, a Wheaton College junior from Andover, was 2 for 3 in the championship win with an RBI and a run scored.
Lowell High grad Rays Roman, a junior outfielder at Dakota State University, was 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored for the Silver Knights (42-13). Nashua won the opener, 3-1, Tuesday at Fraser Field in Lynn.
In their first season under the direction of former major-leaguer Richie Hebner, the Navigators finished with the league’s second-best regular season record, 32-20.
Malden Catholic grad Tony Serino of Saugus led North Shore with a .325 batting average. The senior outfielder for the University of Massachusetts Amherst also had 19 RBIs.
Peabody High graduate Joe Gruntkosky, a pitcher for Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, finished 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 37 strikeouts for North Shore.