‘These are memories they’ll remember forever’: Wilton 12U team heads to sectionals as District 1 champs

The Wilton 12U Little League All-Star team captured their second District 1 championship in three years after defeating Darien 10-5. The team will now proceed to the sectional tournament in Stamford this week.

The Wilton 12U Little League All-Star team captured their second District 1 championship in three years after defeating Darien 10-5. The team will now proceed to the sectional tournament in Stamford this week.

Aaron Meyer / Contributed Photo

WILTON — The 12U Wilton Little League All-Star baseball team took home the Connecticut District 1 Championship last week after topping rival Darien by a 10-5 score.

This is the third year in a row the same Wilton squad, coached by former collegiate player and longtime town athletics coach Kevin Toohill, has earned a District 1 championship berth. Concurrently, Darien has stepped across from them each of the past three times as well. Wilton finally edged out their shoreline rivals though, as prior to their most recent matchup, the two town programs took turns raising their respective District 1 banners in the past two years.

Wilton was able to create early offense and bring runs across as the plate in the opening frame with a leadoff walk by Gavin Toohill, Kevin’s son, then a single by Charlie Cretella, followed by a one-RBI line drive by Casey Meyer off the top of the left-field fence to score Toohill. Mario Coppola followed up with an RBI single to drive in Cretella.

Colton Smith, who Toohill touts as his “ace” and a “big-time power pitcher,” went four and one-third innings totaling seven strikeouts. Catcher Ethan Driscoll “caught an impressive game,” according to Toohill, “as he has done throughout the district tournament.”

Darien did manage to take a 3-2 lead in the second inning, but it would be their last of the game, as Cretella and Smith knocked in a run each in the fourth. In the fifth, Wilton quickly loaded the bases when Gavin Toohill slapped a two-run single to center field. Peter Braid followed that effort up with a one-run single to left field before Meyer got all of a two-run double off of the center-field fence.

That late-game rally pushed Wilton’s lead to 10-3, before Darien would score their finals two runs.

Jeff Fox earned the save on the night, pitching one and two-thirds innings.

The newly-crowned district champions ended the tournament with a 7-1 record, outscoring opponents 54 to 14 with a team batting average of .356 and a team ERA of under .90 across six total pitchers.

Despite the recent success, Toohill put the win in perspective.

“We won districts as (10-year-olds), went up to North Haven and got knocked out (of the state qualifying tournament), and last year were in the finals again,” Toohill said. “And this, we won as (12-year-olds).”

Toohill said he has kept the same group of players over the past three years, with just one lost from the spring season due to lacrosse. For the rest of the team, though, Toohill said these are “baseball guys, all year long.”

The coach said the group played a normal spring season, trained all throughout the winter without missing a beat and stayed dedicated through an uncertain year in 2020.

“We were definitely a favorite coming into district play. We have a good team,” Toohill said. “I think there is a potential that teams may be overlooking us, which I like.”

Now, the sectional tournament will proceed throughout this week in nearby Stamford in a round-robin between Wilton, Max Sinoway (North Haven) and Fairfield American. The week will culminate in a battle for county little league supremacy and a ticket to the state tournament.

Toohill commended both of the opposing programs as tough, fundamentally sound ball clubs. The manager is confident that his strong pitching staff, led by Smith, can keep opposing offenses in check. While Smith will certainly start their first game, Toohill said he has a group of five other pitchers he can turn to.

“Smith is the power pitcher. He throws real hard and he is a gamer,” Toohill said. “And the other guys are crafty. They can mix up speeds and keep hitters off-balance.”

Toohill, who said this is his last season as a little league manager, is hoping for success. He said, though, that guiding his team through an unforgettable experience this summer is what he’s really excited about.

“These memories, these are memories they’ll remember forever,” Toohill said. “This run with this team has been very special.”