By Cary Shuman
Leon Elwell kept his Greater Lynn Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Star team focused on its next game but the manager has had a trip to the World Series in mind for a long time.
“This has been a three-year goal of these guys to win the States and once we won the States, we get in to the Regionals and lose our first game to a tough Pittsfield team so every game becomes a must-game.”
Needing to win their final four games, the Lynn 15-year-old All-Stars accomplished their goal, ultimately besting Rhode Island state champion North Providence-Smithfield, 5-1, in the New England Regional championship game Tuesday in 95-degree weather at Fraser Field.
Lynn qualified for the Babe Ruth World Series that will be played in Williston, North Dakota.
Christian Burt and Dayshon Anderson were named the co-MVPs of the New England Regionals. David Barnard was named the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Pitcher after a gutsy performance in the championship game.
Anthony Nikolakakis, Brett Bucklin, Kevin Durant, A.J. Luciano, and Zach Elwell also made key contributions in helping Lynn secure its first trip to the World Series since 1983 when the 13-year-old team captured the national title.
Luciano had a huge, 300-foot double to left field in the top of the seventh to help Lynn add some insurance runs.
Barnard earned the victory on the mound by shutting down the North Providence/Smithfield offense. Elwell praised the big righthander for a clutch performance.
“David was pitching on short rest,” said Elwell. “We were going to go with Bucklin today. We had both pitchers warming up and David told me he felt fine and he was ready to go. David is one of our aces and he got stronger as he went along today.”
Elwell said he couldn’t be prouder of each player on the team.
“This has been a three-year process, something we’ve been building on for three years and I’m so proud of my kids, they never gave up,” said Elwell. “They believed in the system and what we were trying to do here. They’re all friends and they all get along. They believed in achieving one common goal and that was win the States, win the New Englands, and get to the World Series. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Elwell was asked what it meant to not only be the manager of the New England champions but to be a father of one of the players. Zach Elwell is the starting catcher for the Lynn contingent.
“I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve coached some really, really good kids and to have my son behind the plate – the work that he did back there with our pitchers – he called every pitch and he laid down some great sacrifice bunts, his ability to make in-game adjustments on hitters, he’s just a great backstop and as a dad, I’m really proud of him. As a coach, you don’t get to say that as much because you’re concerning yourself with 15 kids. As his dad, I couldn’t be happier for him and I couldn’t be more proud to share this moment with him.”
Aedon Leydon, son of Lynn coach Sean Leydon, said, “It feel unreal. No words can describe it. I’m speechless. We’ve been working so hard the past couple of years for this and we finally got it done. We’re finally bringing a championship to Lynn. We’re going to do some work in North Dakota.”
Leydon said a trip to the World Series was a dream come true for all the players.
“It was just a dream back when we started out in the Districts,” said Leydon. “We worked so hard just to get here. I can’t believe we’re standing here with the championship trophy.”
He said the loss in the opening game of the Regionals didn’t shatter the team’s confidence. “We’re just resilient. We don’t stop. Everyone on the bench is in to it. Everyone one the field is in to it. We all have a job – all 15 guys step up and know their role.”
Asked if he’s ever been to North Dakota, Leydon replied, “I have not been there but I can’t wait to get there.”