The West Hartford U12 Bulldogs will be one of 20 teams from the U.S. and nine teams from other countries competing in the 2019 Cal Ripken World Series in Branson, MO.
By Ronni Newton
On a blazing hot day, in blazing hot fashion, the West Hartford Youth Baseball League 12U Bulldogs punched their ticket to the big stage, fighting back against the only team to beat them this season to win the New England Regional Championship.
The West Hartford boys head to Branson, MO, on July 31, and begin pool play Aug. 3 against a team from North Colonie, NY.
En route to the New England regionals, the Bulldogs, now a 12U team, won the state championship, becoming the first West Hartford team to not only win back-to-back state championships but also three-peat. They are the first 12U baseball team from West Hartford to ever win a regional championship.
In 2017, as a 10U team with most of the same players, the Bulldogs won the New England region as well and played in the World Series.
The Bulldogs took a 16-0 record into the New England regionals in New Milford, CT, on July 13, and emerged from the tournament with a 20-1 record for their season – which is far from over.
In double-elimination bracket format, the Bulldogs started the tournament with a decisive 15-1 victory over Cranston, RI.
On July 14, they continued to cruise, defeating Westford, MA, 6-1.
After a day off, the Bulldogs next faced Ash/West – last year’s New England championship winners – and beat them 6-0 on July 16.
Winning those first three games gave the Bulldogs a berth in the championship game where they would face the winner of the loser’s bracket, and that team would need to beat West Hartford twice in order to win, Manager Rob Hanawalt said.
“The host team, New Milford, CT – a bit of a surprise – caught fire after losing in the first round,” said Hanawalt. “They won five straight games to play us in the finals. Then they gave us our first defeat of the season – beating us 8-6 in game 1.”
In game 2, however, the Bulldogs “bounced back in a big way,” and won the winner-take-all contest 8-4.
“That’s why we’re Bulldogs”, first base coach Chris Redden said with a smile. “This team is mentally and physically tough with all the expereinces they’ve been through. Their backs were against the wall versus a very hot team during the hottest day of the year. Didn’t phase them for game 2.”
In regional play, Jonah Balcerzak, winning pitcher in the championship game, Zach Goslee, and Mason Hebert received player of the game awards for the Bulldogs.
“I am so proud and happy for this group of kids,” said Hanawalt. “Many of them have played together for years, and what a tremendous finale for them, the coaches and families to experience together.”
Winning the New England regional championship was really the penultimate finale, however, because the Bulldogs are heading for the Cal Ripken World Series in Branson, MO.
U.S. Pool Play begins Aug. 3, with the team plays four days in a row, followed by playoffs. The World Series Championship game is Aug. 10.
Many of the games will be broadcast live or on demand on Stadium, which can be found here: https://watchstadium.com/
For more information, or to donate to help support the Bulldogs’ trip to Branson, please contact Liz Hanawalt [email protected].
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.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford!