Baseball: Wilton 12s shock Stamford National on Robertson’s walk-off homer
Thanks to Connor Robertson’s walk-off home run on Tuesday night, the Wilton 12-U Little League baseball all-stars are undefeated in the District One tournament.
Robertson’s two-out, two-run homer gave Wilton a dramatic 5-4 win over Stamford National at Bill Terry Field, capping off a memorable game between last year’s two district finalists.
Wilton is now 2-0 in the tourney, with its final game of pool play on Friday night (7:30) against Stamford American at Bill Terry Field. The team has already clinched a spot in the elimination round, which begins July 5.
The all-stars had opened the tourney on Saturday with a 12-2 win over Norwalk, also at home.
Last season, as 11-year-olds, Wilton had lost twice to Stamford National in the playoffs, by a combined score of 26-2. Stamford National went on to win the district and state titles.
Despite allowing seven walks (and walking in two runs) the Wilton pitchers (Nevin Belanger, Quinn Stengrim and Hayden Klyver) were able to hold Stamford to only four runs.
“Stamford National’s a very good hitting team. We were trying to avoid throwing it right down the middle. They didn’t have their best stuff but still kept us in the game,” said Wilton head coach Scott Gioffre of Wilton’s pitchers. “It was a true team effort. We played strong defense.”
Wilton had taken a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Zarius Eusebe singled and George DiRocco launched a homer over the centerfield fence.
Wilton’s pitchers had trouble with their control in the top of the fourth, with five walks resulting in two runs, putting the visitors up 3-2.
Stamford looked to blow things open in the fifth, loading the bases with no outs. But Klyver bore down to get out the jam with no runs scoring. He caught a batter looking at a called third strike (on a 3-2 pitch) for the first out, and then got a ground ball to shortstop Sam Gioffre, who threw to the plate for the forceout. Klyver got the final batter on another called third strike.
Wilton then got a big lift off the bench, tying things up, 3-3, in the bottom of the fifth, when pinch hitter Tommy Walsh drilled a homer over the left-field wall — his first-ever home run.
Stamford regained the lead with a run in the top of the sixth, when Thomas Franciose singled and later scored on a chopper up the middle by Tyler Riehl.
Riehl had given Stamford the initial 1-0 lead with a solo homer in the second.
Ryan Preisano lined a single to center field to lead off the Wilton half of the sixth, but Stamford starter Kyle Kipp struck out the next two hitters to bring Wilton to its final out. But with Kipp reaching the limit of his pitch count, Stamford had to take him out and bring in Franciose to close things out. But Robertson had other ideas, drilling a pitch the other way, clearing the right-field fence just inside the foul pole for the game-winning homer.
“I told Connor, just look for a fastball and hit a line drive, and that’s what he did. It was a great at-bat,” said coach Gioffre.
Klyver, who came on in with one out in the fourth, got the win. He went three-and-one-third innings,allowing one run on three hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.
Belanger started for Wilton, going two-and-one-third innings and allowing one run on two hits and three walks, with a strikeout. Stengrim pitched the next one-and-one-third, allowing two runs on five walks, with two strikeouts.
For Stamford, Kipp went five-and-two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out six.
George Hahn and Robertson (home run, two RBI) each had two hits for Wilton, with other hits by Gioffre, Eusebe, DiRocco (home run, two RBI) and Walsh (home run, RBI).
In Saturday’s district opener, Wilton erupted for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth to run-rule Norwalk in four innings, 12-2.
Belanger started and got the win, allowing two hits over two-and-two-thirds innings, with five strikeouts. Stengrim pitched the final one-and-one-third, allowing one hit and strikeout out three.
Preisano led the hitting with three hits (including a home run) and three RBI. Stengrim had an RBI double.