Baseball: Wilton 11s fall short in district finals

After reaching the finals of the District 1 tournament as a 10-under team a year ago, the Wilton Little League 11-under all-star baseball team advanced to the finals again thanks to a dramatic 10-7 win over defending district champ Ridgefield last Saturday.

Wilton rallied from a 7-6 deficit with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, capped off by three-run, walk-off homer by Alexander Reyes.

Unfortunately, the team’s quest to win the district championship came up short for the second straight year, as Wilton lost to Stamford National, 16-1, in the first game of Sunday’s championship series.

“It wasn’t the result we wanted but they came a long way from where everybody started to where everybody finished,” said head coach Scott Gioffre. “Two years in a row, to make it to the district finals, is something to be proud of.”

Wilton ended the district tournament with a record of 5-2.

After going 3-0 in pool play, Wilton opened the elimination round last Wednesday at home with a 14-0 rout over Ridgefield.

Nevin Belanger and Shane Taubin each hurled two innings for a combined for no-hitter, with two strikeouts each.

“We played great defense. We had some really great plays by Sam Gioffre at short and Hayden Klyver at third,” said coach Gioffre.

Connor Robertson homered in the first inning to put Wilton in the lead for good, and also had a single.

Also collecting two hits each were Zarius Eusebe (two singles), Gioffre (single and double) and Belanger (single and double).

Other hits were by Quinn Stengrim (triple), Reyes (double) and Klyver (single).

The victory sent Wilton to the winners’ bracket finals on Friday in Stamford, where they suffered their first loss of the district tournament, 10-1, to Stamford National.

Wilton’s only run came in the first, when Belanger scored on George DiRocco’s RBI single. Wilton’s only other two hits were by Gioffre (triple) and Eusebe (single).

“They just beat us. We were a little flat,” said coach Gioffre. “They played well and (the pitcher) had a good off-speed pitch and it frustrated us a little bit. I told the kids after the game, sometimes you’re going to have an off-day. We knew we had to bounce back.”

Wilton did just that in Saturday’s losers’ bracket finals at home, but it wasn’t easy as they had to rally several times to beat Ridgefield, 10-7, in what was an instant classic, said Gioffre.

It was a sweet victory for the Wilton all-stars, as Ridgefield had beaten them in the district finals last year as 10-unders.

“It’s a great rivalry between the two teams, and there’s a lot of respect,” Gioffre said.

Ridgefield got off quickly on Daniel Bucciero’s two-run homer in the top of the first for a 2-0 lead. Wilton answered with two runs in the bottom of the second, with Eusebe reaching on an error and back-to-back RBI singles by Gioffre and Connor Robertson.

Wilton took a 3-2 lead in the second when Klyver walked and scored on Owen English’s RBI double, but Ridgefield came back with four runs in the top of the third to go up 6-3.

In the fourth, Wilton scored twice to cut the lead to 6-5. After Ryan Presiano walked and Shane Taubin singled, both advanced on a wild pitch. Presiano then scored on a passed ball, and a throwing error on the same play allowed Taubin to cross the plate.

Wilton tied things up in the bottom of the fifth, when Gioffre doubled and scored on Robertson’s RBI single.

Ridgefield wasted no time in retaking the lead in the top of the sixth, with Joel Strand blasting a leadoff homer to make it 7-6.

In the bottom of the sixth, Wilton quickly tied things up when DiRicco doubled and scored on a double by Eusebe. Gioffre walked to put two runners on, and one out later Reyes capped off an eight-pitch at-bat by launching a homer over the centerfield fence to end the game.

Belanger started for Wilton and went five innings, throwing 85 pitchers. Klyver faced three batters in the sixth and Gioffre retired the only batter he faced in the sixth to get the win.

Wilton entered Sunday’s district finals needing two wins to claim the title. The game was close after three innings, with Stamford National up 3-1. Wilton’s run came in the first as Gioffre belted one over the centerfield fence for his first-ever home run.

Stamford broke things open with 13 runs in the fourth inning to take a 16-1 lead, and the game was ended after four due to the run rule.

Wilton’s only other hit was a double by Eusebe in the fourth.

The Wilton all-stars also featured Matthew Ferrante and Charlie Guglielmo, and assistant coaches Bob Belanger and Mario Ferrante.