New Canaan loses by one run in winner's bracket finale against rival Newtown
NEW MILFORD -- The New Canaan Rams U11 All-star baseball team erased a 7-2 deficit against the Newtown Thunder to pull even at 7-7, only to watch their rivals reclaim the lead by scoring a run in the fifth inning that turned out to be the difference in the winner's bracket finale in the New England Regionals Double Elimination tournament in New Milford.
"We were loud in the dugout and we came back, and then they pulled out the win when they got the one run. It's tough," Dillon Abate said.
New Canaan committed four errors, which New Canaan coach Chas Abate said was "uncharacteristic" of his players. The game was pushed back due to a rainout on Tuesday, but the coach didn't seem to believe that the scheduling change had anything to do with the slow start on Wednesday.
"Sometimes with 11-year-old kids there's no real explanation for [the errors]. Sometimes you don't look the ball into your glove cleanly," Chas Abate said.
With the game tied at 7-7 in the top of the fifth inning Newtown's Will Huegi drew a leadoff walk and moved up to second base on a balk. Huegi advanced to third on a groundout by Connor Barrett and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
"I'm proud of our guys for battling back all game. It's tough to get in a big hole early. It was a good ballgame; our guys battled back the whole way and we're proud of them for that," Chas Abate said. "We got it back to a tie game, but [Newtown] happened to squeak out a run in the fifth."
New Canaan's pitching trio of Mikey Pelli, Dillon Abate and Robby Jones did all they could to hold the potent Newtown lineup in check, but Jones was hit with the loss despite not giving up a base hit in his two innings of work. Jones also struck out four batters and went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, two RBI's and two runs scored.
Newtown plated a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, but New Canaan immediately responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the frame on the strength of RBI singles by Matt Burger and Matt Evans.
Newtown came back with a big second inning, as the team batted around to score five runs. New Canaan finally escaped the inning on a bizarre play. With runners on second and third and two outs, Dillon Abate issued a walk, but the runner on third started to jog home and was promptly tagged out by Jones.
New Canaan's Trevor Donnelly scored a run after opening the bottom of the second with a single, and New Canaan closed to within 7-4 in the third inning after Jones singled and ended up scoring after three wild pitches.
New Canaan put its first four batters on base in the fourth inning on the strength of a J.D. Sparks single, a Dillon Abate single, a Pelli hit by pitch and a Jones double. Sparks, Dillon Abate and Pelli all scored to pull their team even.
Although Newtown's Lucas O'Brien labored on the mound, he ultimately lasted five innings to qualify for the win while allowing 10 hits, two walks and two hit batsmen. O'Brien also struck out five.
Newtown's Ben Dieckman pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning to nail down the save, striking out the final two batters in the process.
Because of the loss New Canaan will be forced to play a "loser goes home" game against Exeter on Thursday at 5 p.m. The winner will get one last shot at unbeaten Newtown and will have to beat them twice in order to be crowned the champions of the tournament. New Canaan defeated Exeter 5-2 earlier in the tournament.
"We know that we've already beat them, so we have the knowledge that we can beat them," Dillon Abate said. "If we win, we'll come back and play two games against Newtown."