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Jul. 24—The goals have changed for this year's Greater Keene 15U baseball team.
Originally, the goal was to earn a spot in the playoff bracket at the Babe Ruth New England regional, this year held at Keene's Alumni Field. Now, with a 2-0 record in pool play, the team is sitting on the doorstep of a first-round bye.
A win Sunday night against Sanford (ME) would clinch the top seed in Group A for Keene, giving the team a day off Monday and an automatic spot in the semifinal round of the bracket.
Sanford is 1-1 in pool play. The teams play at 7 p.m. Sunday with the winner earning the top seed and the first-round bye. Even with a loss, Keene will be in the bracket come Monday.
"Advancing out of pool play was the first step," said Keene manager Dave Miller after Saturday's game. "That bye is the next step. [Sunday] we'll be ready to go."
As the hosts of the tournament, Keene did not have to play in the New Hampshire state tournament to qualify for the regional. This tournament is the first time this group has played together since last year.
Despite that, the Greater Keene 15U All Stars kicked off pool play with a 7-6 walk-off win over Waterford (Conn.) Friday night, then beat North Providence-Smithfield (RI), 12-2, in six innings on Saturday night.
Keene has outscored its opponents 19-8 through the first two games, good for a +11 run differential. That's top in the tournament so far.
"They are confident," said Coach Miller. "They're feeling pretty good. I think we all said from the beginning that if we play our game and don't make mistakes and don't beat ourselves, we're a pretty tough team to beat. That message is clear throughout our dugout. I think all the kids believe that and they know that. ... We feel pretty good about our chances moving forward."
"Hopefully we can win [Sunday] so we get the bye until Tuesday," said Sean Callahan, who pitched five strong innings Saturday night.
The key to keep it rolling?
"Just keep it the same," said Taylor Miller, Coach Miller's son. "Don't try to do anything too big. Keep playing our game. Stay humble."
Taylor Miller finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in Saturday's win over Rhode Island. His two-run single in the third inning was a big part of an eight-run third inning for Keene that broke the game open.
Jake Hilliard has been leading the offense through the first two games, going 4-for-6 (.667) from the leadoff spot with three RBIs and four runs scored. He has two extra base hits and has reached base in seven of his nine plate appearances (.778 OBP).
Zak Whitney has also been putting up productive numbers at the plate, going 3-for-7 (.429) with two RBIs and three runs scored. Sawyer Lepple (2-for-7, 2 RBIs) and Taylor Dubriske (2-for-6, 3 runs, RBI) have been major contributors on offense as well.
Noah Parrelli — despite not yet recording a hit in the tournament — has scored three times already, including the game-winning run in the first game against Waterford Friday night. He's reached base in four of his eight plate appearances (.500 OBP).
The playoff bracket begins at 10 a.m. Monday at the Keene State College baseball field and runs until Tuesday. The two division winners automatically qualify for the semifinals on Tuesday and get Monday off.
"We're all psyched," Parrelli said Friday. "This is what we live for. We all love baseball. Best part is just playing."
Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.