By John Goralski
For the second time in as many games, a South Burlington rally threatened to end Team CT’s season in Cranston, R.I.
The Southington South 9-10 year olds had built a 4-0 lead in the championship game of the New England region, but a nine-run rally had all but secured Vermont’s victory in the regional tournament.
…Or did it?
On Saturday, Aug. 10, the local Little Leaguers struck back. Jake Neuman doubled to left field to lead off the fifth inning, and Sean Olson singled to shortstop with two outs to shrink the deficit to 9-5. Pinch runner Colby Powell capped a four-run rally in the next inning after runs by Drew Belcourt, and Neuman, Shane LaPorte.
Just like that, the Cinderella locals turned a 9-4 deficit into a tie game in the final inning. The CT state champions weren’t about to go quietly.
Olson scored the go ahead run to start the next inning. Belcourt and LaPorte crossed home plate safely. When Nikko Buonanni scored the final run of the seventh inning, the game was already out of reach.
Southington South had avenged their only loss in the Little League Eastern Regional, and their fourth win at the tournament clinched the New England 9-10 year old title.
Even a loss in the next round to Team NJ didn’t diminish the team’s torrid run through the postseason. The Southington South Little League team is the 2013 New England champion.
Southington entered the regional brackets after rolling to a District 5 championship in early July. They carried the momentum through the sectional brackets on their way to a CT State championship over Newington.
Southington surged into Cranston with lopsided wins of Maine and New Hampshire champions before surviving a one-run win over Massachusetts and suffering a one-run loss to Vermont the following game.
Along the way, Southington shuffled eight players on and off the mound. All 14 players contributed on the field and at the plate. For the next year, the Southington squad can boast that they’re the best in New England.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, the group out-lasted North Andover (MA), 6-5, to improve to 3-0. Olson earned the win. Buonanni’s homerun and Jake Napoli’s double helped lift Southington to the victory.
North Andover took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the third inning, but Southington responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning and one run in each subsequent at bat.
Two days later, the locals suffered their first loss of the regional brackets. South Burlington (VT) rallied for four runs in their final at bat to turn an 8-5 deficit into a 9-8 win.
Jake Napoli powered the locals with two homeruns but it wasn’t enough as Southington fell for the first time since the CT State championship series and just the second time in the postseason.
Two days later, the locals answered in the rematch with their own come-from-behind win. Neuman scored the victory on the mound. LaPorte had a pair of doubles. Napoli and Neuman both doubled, and the team from Southington South scored the town’s first New England title in the 9-10 year old division.
The streak came to an end in the next round when the New Jersey all-stars out-lasted Southington, 3-1, in the East Championship final. Southington represented the New England champions, while Monroe Township (NJ) represented the Mid-Atlantic teams.
Monroe jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the championship game. Southington manufactured one run in the fourth inning but never regained the lead.
The loss ended Southington South’s summer campaign.
By John Goralski