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Not So Little League: Westport Little League Shines on the World

Jimmy Ray Stagg
Sibling Nerves: Connor Whelan ’15 (son of Assistant Coach Tom Whelan) looks on as Nick Drbal ’14, Ben Rogers ’15, Topher Brown ’15, and Ian Offenberg ’16 watch their siblings during Sunday’s 9-7 nailbiter.

Matt Brown rounds third base, the crowd on their feet, slows up just before home, and finally slaps his hand on the plate before being swarmed by his teammates after a long home run to give Westport their only three runs of the game. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to get the win against California in a thrilling 6-3 game that went nine innings.

This Wednesday night loss put Westport in a game against Washington Thursday night, for the right to play in the American championship against California on Saturday night. The winner of that game was then to go on to the World Championship Sunday. However the series ended, though, players, coaches and Staples siblings agreed that the season that led to last week’s exciting and sometimes heartbreaking games was an enormous success for the team and town as well.

One of the most important aspects of the team’s success through the summerlong playoffs is their pitching. Ben Rogers ’15, the brother of Little League starting center fielder Drew Rogers, is confident enough to say, “With the two aces they have and a solid back up in [Max] Popken, I think their pitching staff is the best in the tournament.”

The two aces are Harry Azadian and Chad Knight. Both of these boys are shutdown pitchers, capable of silencing teams. Both of these boys have been on the Sports Center Top 10. Even Harry’s big brother Zack Azadian ’15 can’t believe it.

“It still shocks me every time I see Hairball on TV. I’m just so proud.”

However, with this success comes a question. What will change in Westport baseball? Rogers has an answer. “It proves to kids that Fairfield isn’t always the powerhouse.”

Rogers was referring to the allstar teams chosen in Fairfield, who made it to the LLWS last year, as well as in 2010. Fairfield has long been the team to end Westport’s season in the early rounds, which, according to Offenberg, helped the team.

“They lost heartbreakers to Fairfield for three straight years. But they took those horrible memories and turned them into motivation.” This motivation took the form of hard work and desire. Nick Drbal ’14 helped his brother Chris, the team’s leadoff hitter, improve and strengthen his hitting.

“I would throw him around 2 hours of BP a day. He would continue to ask for more and more rounds,” said Drbal. “All the boys are like that and [they] are all driven.”

There is no doubt that Westport’s 1-2 punch of Knight and Azadian is a force to be reckoned with, but Azadian also looks at it from the flipside. “It’s just a question of [what they can make] happen offensively against such elite arms.”

In their first LLWS game against Tennessee, Westport was losing but then managed a come-from-behind victory. According to the coach of the team, Tim Rogers (father of Ben and Drew), the team wasn’t always this composed.

“This is one of the things the boys have learned over the last three years — to compete until the end,” said Rogers.

Topher Brown ‘15, brother of Little Leaguer Matt, attributes the team’s success to their patience. “This team doesn’t always start off hot, but they know the game isn’t over until the final out is made.”

In the end, the one point that seemed unanimously agreed upon was that these boys earned their way here with hard work and talent. Drbal, put it simply. “These kids deserve every ounce of stardom they are currently receiving.”

For Drbal and others, the outcome of the LLWS doesn’t matter that much. Ian Offenberg ’16, brother of the smoother-than-silk shortstop Ricky, put it this way:.

“They’ve got all the talent in the world and who knows, maybe they bring it back to Westport, but that’s not the point. The real point is that they got here. They did it and they achieved their goal together. Anything else from here is just the cherry on top.”

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About the Contributor
Jimmy Ray Stagg
Jimmy Ray Stagg, Web Creative Director
Jimmy Ray Stagg is a Staples senior and has been an Inklings writer since sophomore year. He likes to cover sports and plays baseball and football in his free time. “I could write forever about sports,” said Stagg. He plans to play catcher for Staples again this year. His favorite baseball team is the Mets. “It’s great to be a Mets fan”, said Stagg, “especially with the year that the Mets are having.” Stagg is also a Patriots fan. “I can talk about the Patriots forever,” said Stagg. Stagg is a member of both Orphenians and Staples Players. Stagg had his acting debut at eight in Children Of Eden and has been in many Bedford and Staples plays since. “I have a thing for attention,” said Stagg. Stagg is a great Inklings mentor and I have already learned much from him in the past two weeks.

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