Wilton wins district title, advances to sectionals
Scoring all of its runs in the final three innings, the Wilton Little League 10U All-Star team earned a spot in the state sectionals.
Needing a win to advance, Wilton rallied for a 5-4 triumph over host Darien in the championship game of the District 1 tournament last Friday night.
The victory came in a winner-take-all game following Darien’s 10-0 rout of Wilton last Wednesday. That result left both teams with one loss in the double-elimination playoff round.
“To bounce back and win at their age after losing 10-0 to the same team two days before says a lot about their resiliency,” Wilton manager Peter Baird said of his players. “They didn’t lose their focus.”
By winning the district title, Wilton advanced to the state sectionals, dropping its opening game to District 4 champion Max Sinoway (North Haven) by a score of 3-0 on Tuesday night in North Branford. District 2 champ Fairfield American is also in the three-team sectional, which is played in a double-elimination format.
The sectional winner moves on to the state tournament.
In Friday’s game, Wilton spotted Darien a 3-0 lead before beginning its comeback on Greg Bocchino’s RBI single in the top of the fourth inning.
Wilton then tied the score with two runs in the top of the fifth. Charlie Cretella singled and went to third on Colton Smith’s double, and both runners came home when Denny Dustin followed with a line-drive single to right field.
“Denny had been in a slump, but he came through with a huge hit,” Baird said. “That was a really clutch moment.”
After Darien stranded runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth, Wilton went ahead in the top of the sixth. Bocchino doubled to left with one out and went to third when Peter Baird Jr. (the manager’s son) reached on an error. Gavin Toohill’s single brought in Bocchino, and Baird Jr. scored on Cretella’s sacrfice fly to give Wilton a 5-3 lead.
Down to its final at-bat, Darien looked well positioned to either tie the game or get a walk-off win.
A single and two errors scored a run and left Darien trailing 5-4 with no outs in the bottom of the sixth. Following a stolen base, Darien had runners on second and third with no outs, prompting Wilton’s mananger to confer with pitcher Anthony Palumbo and the rest of his players.
“I told them that they still were the ones with the one-run lead,” said Peter Baird. “I wanted them to settle down and not think about the previous plays ... just focus on getting the next batters out.”
Palumbo got a strikeout and then caught a pop-up back to the mound. He then induced a ground ball to second baseman Toohill, who threw to first for the game-ending out.
“We have been preaching resiliency and not dwelling on mistakes,” said Peter Baird. “The players showed that resiliency when they needed it most.”
Notes: Palumbo pitched the final one and two-thirds innings to get the win in relief of Smith, who started and went four and one-third innings.
Bocchino and Dustin each had two hits for Wilton. Cretella, Smith, and Toohill added one hit apiece.
Wilton finished the District 1 tournament with a 5-2 record, outscoring its opponents by a combined 54-23.
In addition to the players mentioned above, Wilton’s roster also includes Casey Meyer, Gavin Levenherz, Keegan Kazan, Jeffrey Fox, Ethan Driscoll, and Mario Coppola.