Softball: Wilton Hardware captures Sunday League title with walk-off win

Wilton Hardware rallied for three runs in its final at-bat to stun the Golden Oldies, 8-7, on Sunday and win the 2017 championship of the Wilton Parks and Recreation Department’s Sunday Softball League.

It capped off a Cinderella playoff run for Wilton Hardware, which had finished in last place during the regular season with only three wins. The team had defeated the Golden Oldies — who were the top-seed and undefeated — earlier on Sunday to force a final game.

Wilton Hardware’s Dennis Orr said team had eked some close wins in the opening rounds last month to reach the final series.

“We managed to hang in there in the first couple of rounds. We didn’t have our full team,” he said. “The last two weeks we had our full team. We have some ball players. We always feel pretty good when we have a full team out there.”

It was the third Sunday League title for Wilton Hardware, which had been in the league close to 30 years, said Orr.

The team’s last championship, in 2005, came in similar fashion as Wilton Hardware won only a few regular-season games before putting together a big post-season run.

Seeded sixth, Wilton Hardware opened the playoffs on Sept. 10 with a 5-3 win over third-seeded Outback and an 18-15 win over second-seeded O’Neil’s Pub.

That put them in the winners’ bracket final on Sept. 24 against the Golden Oldies, where they suffered an 8-4 loss and dropped down to the losers’ bracket.

Later that day, they stayed alive with a 5-3 win over the Weekend Warriors in the losers’ bracket final.

Wilton Hardware took Sunday’s first game easily, 9-4, to force the final game. The team rode a six-run fourth inning, sparked by base hits from Matt Carbone, Paul Kilmartin, Kevin Hand, Bill Meehan and Mark Lauten.

In the decisive second game, the Oldies took an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh, looking to close out the game. Sean Clancy led off the final frame with a single and Yoshi Nobumoto followed with a long fly down the right-field line that hugged the foul pole and cleared the fence for a game-tying two-run homer.

That was followed by base hits by Steve Karlin and Alex Judge. With two outs and two strikes, Dave Wecker produced the game-winning run to win the title.

In his last Sunday League game before retirement in Florida, Chip Neuscheler went out a champion, pitching two complete-game victories for Wilton Hardware on Sunday.

It was a tough end to an otherwise dominant season for the Golden Oldies, who won all 15 of their regular-season games and two playoff games before Sunday’s losses. The Sunday League dynasty was looking for its 13th title in the last 24 years.

“We have a lot of respect for the Golden Oldies. They always have a good team. If they don’t win it they’re in the championship game,” said Orr.