The West Hartford Youth Baseball 11U team won the Cal Ripken state championship on Thursday night.
Submitted by Rob Hanawalt
It was less than a year ago that the WHYBL’s 10U Bulldogs were the first youth baseball team from West Hartford to ever win a New England Regional Championship and advance to a World Series.
This past week in Danbury, CT, the District 3 champs, who are now in the next age group, took a step towards being able to defend their regional title by winning the 11U Connecticut Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth State Championship for the second consecutive year.
The commute was long, but conditions were fantastic in Danbury all week for the eight-team, double-elimination tournament. The Bulldogs had a tough first-round opponent, the Brookfield Beast, who had handed the Bulldogs one of the season’s three losses just two weeks ago. West Hartford battled from behind three times in that game, only to finally take the lead in the fifth inning and eventually win the game 7-4.
Things didn’t get easier in game two. New Milford, fresh off a District 4 title, was the home team and ready for the Bulldogs. The pitching was masterful on both sides, but the Bulldogs finally broke through to score three in the sixth and come home with a 4-1 victory.
Next up in the winner’s bracket was the host, Danbury. The Bulldogs teamed up for nine hits in this one, and once again had great pitching, winning the game 7-1.
After a 3-0 start, the Bulldogs received a bye and advanced directly to the championship, eventually facing Brookfield once again. After losing their opener, Brookfield was on a roll after defeating Pomperaug, Greenwich, Newtown, New Canaan, and Danbury on consecutive nights. West Hartford fell behind early again against the Beast, but then the rest and extra practice for the Bulldogs paid off as they pushed across 13 runs and collected 13 hits in the game, eventually winning 13-3 and claiming back to back Connecticut State Championships.
“This is the definition of team,” said first base coach Chris Redden after the win. “They work hard together in practice, carry it over to the field and support each other every day. It’s our culture. Every single player contributes day in and day out, in one way or another.”
It was another great Cal Ripken tournament, grounded in sportsmanship, teamwork, and high quality baseball. The town of Danbury also ensured memorable experiences for all players and families.
The Bulldogs will now look to repeat their New England Regional Championship from a year ago. They carry a 15-3 record to Dover, NH, to compete against other state champions from New England. Game one is on Saturday at 3 p.m. vs. Freetown/Lakeville, MA. Good luck, Bulldogs!
Roster: Jonah Balcerzak, Zach Goslee, Ben Hall, Chase Hanawalt, Mason Hebert, Jaden Kass, Matthew Oriola, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, Tyler Redden, Josh Shemanskis, Cooper Tantraporn, Dom Trolio, Benny White.
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