The West Hartford Youth Baseball 12U team won the Cal Ripken state championship on Monday and is headed to New England competition.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Youth Baseball League Bulldogs have continued their winning ways, winning the Cal Ripken state championship for the third year in a row, this time at the 12U level.
A majority of the team played for the U11 Bulldogs last summer.
“This team has some of the best young athletes in West Hartford on it,” said team manager Rob Hanawalt. “What makes them go, though, is their love for baseball and how they operate as one. All 14 players contribute and support each other in everything they do. It’s really cool to see that and be a part of it.”
Not only did the 12U Bulldogs win the championship on July 8, but they’ve also taken home first-place trophies in three other tourneys – the Al Leonard/Jimmy Fund Tournament, the Bethel Memorial Day Classic, and Cal Ripken District 3.
The Bulldogs were the first team from West Hartford to win back-to-back state championships – and now they have done it three years in a row.
The Bulldogs are undefeated this season, with a 16-0 record heading into the New England Regional Championship tournament in New Milford, CT, on Saturday, July 13.
They will face Cranston, winner of the Rhode Island state title, at 12:30 p.m.
The winner of the New England Regional Championship will earn a trip to the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken World Series, to be held Aug. 2-9 in Branson, MO.
Even if they don’t make it to the World Series, the season won’t end. The Bulldogs are guaranteed to end their season on a high note, because if they don’t go to Branson, they will attend a week-long, once-in-a-lifetime tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park being held the same week.
“The 12-year-old season is a special season in WHYBL,” Hanawalt said. “Most of these kids have been in the league since they were 5 years old, and it’s their last with us before graduating to the ‘big diamond.’ It was important to us to have these kids finish with a special experience,” he said
“If somehow, some way we get through Regionals and make the World Series, that would be simply amazing. If not though, we’re lined up to go to Cooperstown Dream Park for a different once-in-a-lifetime week of baseball. Not a bad alternative! The coaches are so excited for these boys no matter what happens or where we go,” said Hanawalt.
This group of boys has had unprecedented success each of the past three summers.
Last July, as an U11 team, the Bulldogs were Cal Ripken state champions for the second year in a row, and finished their season as runners-up in the New England Regional Championship tournament.
As a U10 team in 2017, the Bulldogs won not only the state championship but also the New England championship, and advanced to the World Series.
The U12 Bulldogs roster includes: Jonah Balcerzak, James Fagnant, Myles Fournier, Zach Goslee, Ben Hall, Chase Hanawalt, Mason Hebert, Jaden Kass, Tyler Redden, Josh Shemanskis, Cooper Tantraporn, Dom Trolio, Elijah Wells, and Benny White.
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