New Canaan 12-year-olds use 10-run fifth to stun New Milford in state tournament winner's bracket finale
BETHEL -- Put some preteens on an abridged diamond where they can mash like mini big-leaguers and the possibilities seem endless. Except when they don't.
"I try to tell these kids that no matter how big of a deficit (you're facing), you keep battling, keep trying your hardest and you never know what can happen in a 12-year-old baseball game," said New Canaan coach Chas Abate. "You tell the kids that a lot, but they don't tend to believe it."
Here's what happened in this 12-year-old baseball game, the winner's bracket final of the state tournament at Mitchell Park in Bethel Wednesday night: trailing by nine runs in the bottom of the fifth to a New Milford club that had seized control with an eight-run third inning, New Canaan sent 14 batters to the plate, pounded nine hits and scored 10 runs to snatch a stunning, 12-11 victory from the jaws of defeat.
New Canaan's ace southpaw, Rob Jones, fired the first pitch at 5:45 p.m. and, via the re-entry rule, tossed the last for strike three just shy of 8 p.m. Abate's bunch -- who now must be beaten twice Saturday morning if anyone else is to capture the state title -- are certainly believers now.
"Now I think they'll believe it," Abate said. "I'm going to need 12 game balls for this one. This is one of those games where the subs all got in, everybody contributed and it was just a phenomonal total team effort."
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New Canaan's starting catcher, Matt Burger, helped stem the tide when he took the mound for two pivotal innings, limiting New Milford to two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk through the fourth and the fifth. His replacement behind the dish, Trevor Donnelly, contributed the biggest blow in the 10-run fifth, scorching a three-run double that made the score 11-7. Dillon Abate followed with a two-run double and Mike Pelli made it 11-10 with a run-scoring two-bagger of his own. Back-to-back RBI singles for Burger and Matt Evans completed the improbable comeback.
New Milford's eight-run third inning featured similar firepower, beginning with Derek Profita's leadoff home run to left. Profita eventually flied out to the warning track in left to end the inning, which also featured a pinch-hit grand slam by Connor Douskey and a two-run shot off the bat of Matt Rodriguez.
Colin Lindner put New Milford up early with a two-run double in the second inning and later added an RBI sac fly. New Canaan answered with two runs of its own in the second, scoring first on an RBI sac fly from Trevor Donnelly and tying the game on a throwing error.
Facing similar circumstances in the district playoffs, New Milford has rallied back before.
"You have to go home, look yourselves in the mirror and say hey, we're going to play our best game in the next one," said New Milford coach George Roberts.
NEW MILFORD 028 200 -- 11 14 2
NEW CANAAN 020 0(10)X -- 12 14 1
Batteries: NM -- Derek Profita, Matt Rodriguez (3), Hunter Colburn (5), Alec Lubas (5) and Brooks Baldwin, Profita (3); NC -- Rob Jones, Mike Pelli (3), Matt Burger (4), Jones (6) and Burger, Trevor Donnelly (3). SO: Jones 6, Profita 1, Burger 1, Lubas 1. BB: Jones 3, Profita 1, Rodriguez 1, Burger 1, Colburn 1, Lubas 1.
2B: Pelli 2 (NC), Colin Lindner (NM), Lubas (NM), Jones (NC), Dillon Abate (NC). HR: Connor Douskey (NM), Profita (NM), Rodriguez (NM). RBI: NM -- Lindner 3, Profita, Douskey 4, Rodriguez 2; NC -- Donnelly 4, Burger 2, Justin Stemerman, Abate 2, Matt Evans, Pelli.