It didn’t take long for a local Cal Ripken squad to reach lofty heights.
Playing in the 12-year-old, 70-foot (base path) division for the first time, Methuen’s contingent has advanced to the New England Regionals that begins this weekend and winds up with the championship next Thursday.
The 12-member all-star squad drafted from among five teams after a 14-game regular season opens play against host Dover, N.H., in Saturday’s 6 p.m. finale. If it wins, it will play again Sunday at 5:30. The loser will play at noon Sunday.
“There will be some good teams in (the regional), and we have to jump on them early,” said David Gill, who pitches and plays shortstop. “If we don’t jump on them early, they might take advantage of us. But our team never gives up. We just have to keep playing no matter what the score is.”
The previous two years, Methuen had a league in the division that features a 46-foot pitcher’s mound and 60-feet base paths. This year the town opened up two leagues (five teams in both major and minor divisions) with a 50-foot pitcher’s mound and 70-foot base paths.
Cal Ripken, a division of Babe Ruth League, Inc., became the town’s league of choice three years ago after a vote that merged the Little League organization on the east side of Methuen and the Cal Ripken organization on the west side.
The regional-qualifying team was picked by a panel of high school coaches from in-season tryouts.
“I felt fairly confident we’d have a decent showing because these kids have been playing baseball for a long time,” said Bob Fili, selected manager of the unit. “They’ve been playing together. These are kids who have made all-star teams every year, so we felt good about our chances.”