The 2023 fall baseball season has concluded, with multiple West Hartford Little League teams winning their age group championships.
12U Fall Ball Champion Royal Blue Wahoos
After a thrilling walk-off semifinal win against Newington Gold earlier in the week, the WHLL 12U Royal Blue Wahoos won an equally thrilling 1-0 championship against Rocky Hill. It was a true pitcher’s duel, with both starters – Max Packer for Rocky Hill and Gabriel Simon for the Wahoos – pitching into the sixth with 23 combined strikeouts. Gabriel got some help in the field with a spectacular play at shortstop by Henry Helge, who snagged a line drive to end a threat in the fourth inning.
The lone run came on a double in the second inning by Gabriel, who stole third two pitches later and swiped home on an errant throw. With Teddy Bonafonte securing the win with a pair of K’s, Oliver Edwards, who masterfully caught all six innings, ran out to the mound and jumped into Teddy’s arms as the team celebrated the third straight GHFBL 12U championship for WHLL.
WHLL 10U Black/”Mogwai” Win GHFBL Championship!
Buoyed by belief in themselves, each other, and the magic of playing under the lights, the WHLL 10U Mogwai team completed a fantastic run through the GHFBL playoffs, “the hard way,” forged by challenging wins against its excellent fellow WHLL 10U teams in the early rounds of the “Sub-bracket of Death.”
In a season marked by schedule conflicts, frequent rainouts, subsequent multi-day field closures and sometimes aggressive groundskeeping to make games happen, this team learned that things are rarely perfect, and they don’t have to be: if everyone shows up, shakes off disappointments and keeps trying their best, things will generally work out pretty well – somehow!
Success in the championship game (Nov. 3 in Newington) required a little bit of everything that made this team special all season long, as every team member lived up to the mantra “Play Like a Gremlin Today.”
Lights-out pitching from starter Jack Grandpre and closer Harris Carillo, confident catching from credible stealing deterrents Antonia Jones and Kieran Feely, cagey and aggressive baserunning from Eddie Sciallo and Caleb Cruz, textbook-perfect fielding habits and inspiring enthusiasm from Matthew Kavanagh and Billy Adamowicz, ice-cold composure at the plate and timely hits from Henry Lindquist, and emotional charges from Leo Smith and Ben Otterbein to overcome individual obstacles and deliver for the team incritical moments.
Game highlights included 14 Newington strikeouts by three Mogwai pitchers, only one steal of home plate allowed by three Mogwai catchers, Mogwai runs scored in all five innings they went to the plate, hits made or runs scored by 10 of 11 Mogwai, two monster Mogwai doubles in a 4-run second inning, and 17 bases stolen (two delayed) by Mogwai in total.
The game ultimately turned on two big defensive plays for the Mogwai. First, in an odd fifth inning, Newington loaded the bases on three HBP made by relief pitcher Otterbein and closer Carillo. Carillo also worked in 2 strikeouts, but the stage was set for Newington’s most imposing hitter, No. 13, to put a dent in the 8-4 lead held by the Mogwai. Well into his at-bat, a ball snuck past catcher Feely and made the long roll to the visitor side of the backstop. Feely and Carillo darted to ball and plate respectively, but there was just a little hesitation from the lead Newington runner. This allowed Carillo to set up cleanly over the front edge of home, receive a snappy throw from Feely, and apply the tag to put the runner out and escape the top of the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Mogwai were able to get one more insurance run built upon three steals from leadoff hitter Otterbein, who was awarded first base on an HBP of his own and summoned some playoff magic when he decided to “wear the pitch” himself and declined a pinch runner. This was fortunate, because Newington’s No. 13 then became the leadoff hitter in the sixth inning, in which he smashed a double and stole his way to third base. He was held there by a tough reputation catcher Jones had earned in a regular season matchup of these teams. After a strikeout and a walk and steal put runners at second and third with only one out, Newington was threatening to shrink the 9-4 run gap early in this uncapped inning. The stage was thus set for the second critical moment, in which a ball was driven hard by the next hitter to shortstop Otterbein, who snagged it at shoulder height and quickly turned to third base. There, Newington’s No. 13’s aggressive leadoffs had left him in trouble.
After realizing that he needed to scramble and dive back, he could not beat third baseman Feely’s shuffle step to the bag just in time to receive Otterbein’s throw and complete the Championship-ending double play.
Truly magical stuff!
8U Fall Ball Champion Navy
In the 8U Fall championship game, the West Hartford Navy defeated the West Hartford Royals by a final score of 11-2.
Playing “on the road,” the WH Navy scored in every inning and kept the Royals off the basepaths for most of the game. Henry Bentley set the table in the lead off spot and went 2-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. Jack Kavanagh added two runs, one RBI, and one stolen base. Mathew Fellows pitched in the fourth and fifth innings striking out six while going 2-3 at the plate with one run, one RBI, and a stolen base.
Spencer Kan was the starting pitcher, going three innings, striking out nine while allowing only two baserunners. Spencer added three RBI, one run, and a stolen base on offense. Max Kravitz pitched in the fourth inning and went 2-3 at the plate and matched a team high with three RBI.
Hudson Phillips drew a walk and added an insurance run in the fifth inning. Ben Healy added a hit, one run, and one steal. Owen Cordiano went 2-3 with a run and a steal. James Bran added one run and an RBI, taking a HBP for his team. Michael Schwanke rounded out the batting order, going 2-2 with one run and two RBI. Will McCullough and Mason Schafer couldn’t make the rescheduled game, but were key contributors throughout the season.
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