New Canaan falls to Newtown in wild two-day Cal Ripken clash, but earns rematch
Updated 10:41 pm, Wednesday, July 25, 2012
NEWTOWN -- It took 24 hours longer than expected, but the Newtown Cal Ripken baseball team advanced to Thursday's tournament championship by finishing off New Canaan 12-11 in a wild seesaw battle in the winner's bracket final Wednesday at Newtown's Glander Field.
With New Canaan leading 11-10 going into the bottom of the fifth on Tuesday, the game was called due to darkness and was picked up on Wednesday.
With the game tied 11-11 in the bottom of the eighth, Newtown's Ben Harrison started the inning with a single, and Dylan Champagne hit into a fielder's choice. With Champagne on third base, Newtown's Connor Barrett smacked a line drive into the right-centerfield gap for the walk-off single.
"I wanted to be aggressive on the first pitch I saw because you've just got to get that run in," Barrett said. "I think if we play the way we did today, we'll have no problem winning. It was a team effort today."
Newtown advances to Thursday's championship and will have two chances to beat New Canaan, which quickly rebounded from the defeat to beat Exeter, N.H. 6-3 in the losers' bracket final immediately following the loss to Newtown.
Robby Jones, who launched a pair of two-run bombs on Tuesday, entered the game as New Canaan's fourth pitcher on Wednesday. Leading off the sixth inning with his team still down 11-10, Newtown's Ben Dieckman was hit by a pitch and replaced with pinch runner Rob Lombardo. Lombardo stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an errant throw by New Canaan following a strikeout.
Jones eventually stranded the potential game-winning run on third base.
"I can't even describe how many close games we've played with New Canaan over the last five or six years," Newtown coach Tom Harrison said. "All the runs count, whether you're walking, hitting the ball over the fence or scoring on passed balls."
On Tuesday, New Canaan used a five-run fifth inning to take an 11-10 lead over Newtown before the game was postponed due to darkness.
In the top of the fifth, Dillon Abate launched a two-out grand slam over the right-center field fence field fence to tie the game at 10-10, and an RBI single by Matt Burger put New Canaan back on top 11-10.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Newtown's Ben Harrison ripped a two-run double down the left field line to snap a 6-6 deadlock and give Newtown an 8-6 lead. A two-run single by Champagne seemingly gave Newtown a bit of breathing room by extending its advantage to 10-6, the largest lead for either team.
The two-day clash between the newfound rivals was in far different fashion than last season's state tournament finale in which Newtown claimed a tense 2-1 win, but it was still as competitive as ever.
"We seem to play incredible games with Newtown every single game. Nothing surprises me," Chas Abate said. "When we get together, these two teams have a way of having incredible battles against each other."
New Canaan's Robby Jones launched a pair of two-run bombs in the third and fourth innings that each cleared the centerfield fence by a considerable margin. Abate and Jones both notched four RBI and Burger drove in three.
A two-out, two-run blast over the right field fence by Newtown pitcher Jason Hebner gave Newtown a 5-4 lead in the third.
"It's just a typical New Canaan-Newtown game. Every time we play, it's a one run game. They hit the heck out of the ball like they did tonight, and we've never had an easy game with them," Harrison said. "We've been hitting the ball well the last three or four games, so the kids are confident at the plate."
Back-to-back jacks by Jones and Burger in the top of the third gave New Canaan its second lead of the day at 4-3.
New Canaan drew first blood in the top of the first when Matt Burger came through with an RBI single to plate Mike Pelli, who reached on a fielder's choice.
Newtown loaded the bases on three straight walks to begin the bottom of the second, prompting New Canaan coach Chas Abate to replace Burger with Dillon Abate. The younger Abate got a popup, but a wild pitch and a two-run double by Newtown's Adam Bergeron gave Newtown its first lead at 3-1.
For full coverage of Thursday's championship, visit www.newcanaannewsonline.com.