BRATTLEBORO >> Vermont is the only New England state that does not have a McDonald's restaurant in its capitol city and has never had a team compete in the Little League World Series.
I think it's safe to say "Big Macs for everyone" if Brattleboro becomes the first baseball team from the Green Mountain State to play in South Williamsport, Penn. in the event's 69-year history.
The journey through the regionals begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Breen Field in Bristol, Conn., and that Maine-Brattleboro contest will be shown live on ESPN3. Scarborough is on a 12-game winning streak and ace Sam Clark recently improved to 6-1 in a lopsided state title victory over Biddeford.
"I have a strategy for our first two games," said Brattleboro manager Mike Bingham when asked who he would start on the hill in the opener.
He wanted to keep it a secret.
Three members of Vermont's team were a part of the A's, who went 15-0 during Brattleboro's regular season. All-Star manager Mike Bingham coached them, Alex Bingham fired a one-hit shutout versus the Reds along the way, and Zinabu McNeice had a league-best 10 home runs.
In an evenly matched district series, Brattleboro took care of Bennington in six games. Caden Wood blasted a couple of grand slams against his rivals to the west and his team would rally from a nine-run deficit to clinch in Game 6.
Brattleboro would then outscore Connecticut River Valley North, Essex Junction and Colchester by a combined 53-26 in the state tournament at the South Main Street field. It ended with a power display in the championship game, when McNeice homered twice and the hosts also got deep flies from Jack Pattison, Alex Carpenter, Bingham and Wood.
The support was incredible, with fans tailgating and then lining the bank to cheer on their team. And some stepped onto the field when the dust settled to take pictures of the state champions.
Pattison, who leads off for Brattleboro, went deep once in all three state tourney games and drove in five runs in the opener. The next three batters in the order, Bingham, Wood and McNeice, all had at least three hits in the title tilt against Colchester. They are followed by first baseman Huxley Holcombe (4 RBIs in opener) and catcher Aaron Petrie (3 hits versus Essex Junction), while super sub Alex Carpenter has already hit a couple of postseason bombs.
That should mean plenty of run support in the regionals for McNeice, who is a hard-throwing righty, and southpaw Caden Wood. The dynamic duo just teamed up for a dozen strikeouts and a five-hitter in the state finale against Colchester.
Also on the Brattleboro team are: Sam Henry — he helped the Red Sox finish second to the A's in the regular season; Elias Gradinger and Tristan Evans — they both played for the 9-6 Cardinals; Turner Clews — the backup catcher made three highlight defensive plays in Game 6 against Bennington; and Magnus Von Krusenstiern — he had three hits for the Giants during a shootout with the Red Sox in early May.
Scott Smyth, who is the announcer for Brattleboro Little League, often challenges the crowd with a trivia question between innings. Maybe the first one he asks next season will be something like, I don't know, "Who scored the game-winning run for Brattleboro to give Vermont its first ever regional title?"
Brattleboro roster: Coaches — Mike Bingham, Rob Pattison, Jeff Henry. Players — Jack Pattison, Alex Bingham, Caden Wood, Zinabu McNeice, Huxley Holcombe, Aaron Petrie, Tristan Evans, Elias Gradinger, Magnus Von Krusenstiern, Turner Clews, Sam Henry, Alex Carpenter.
The Regional Schedule
Sunday at 1 p.m. — Maine vs. Vermont
Sunday at 7 p.m. — New Hampshire vs. Connecticut
Monday at 1 p.m. — Rhode Island vs. Maine/Vermont winner
Monday at 7 p.m. — Massachusetts vs. NH/CT winner