By BRIAN JENNINGS
For the second year in a row, Big League baseball manager Andy Levin was in a bind as he walked around town with one of his assistant coaches, going from business to business desperately seeking donations.
“We really had to give them the whole we-don’t-know-yet explanation,” said Levin. “A lot of my players texted me consistently looking for an update, and I just told them that I had no idea.”
After Southington was defeated by Edgewood of Bristol in game three of the Big League championship series on Monday, July 11, Edgewood earned a spot in the Big League Baseball East Regional Tournament in Dover, Del. However, Levin was contacted by District 5 notifying him that Edgewood was unable to field a team, due to various reasons.
But even though Edgewood was unable to field a team, there was still the possibility that Southington wouldn’t be sent down to represent Connecticut in Edgewood’s place. In past years, Williamsport wasn’t favorable to sending runners-up through to the regional tournament. But ever since travel leagues like the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and American Legion became more popular, Williamsport became more accepting of the idea.
“We didn’t really want to get our hopes up too much because we were in a similar situation last year,” the manager said. “After we protested the game, we didn’t know if we were going to get the protest or not. So it was really just a waiting game at that point.”
So after waiting around for an official answer, Levin received a phone call from the Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pa. around 5pm on Wednesday. Southington was going to replace Edgewood in representing Connecticut in the tournament to play their opening-round game on Friday.
“It kind of seemed unreal at the time because that was the kids’ dream since I first took the team over,” said Levin. “I lost numerous times in game three of the Connecticut Big League championship series both as a player and a coach. They always say that it’s every 12-year-old’s dream to go to Williamsport. But for us, we basically fulfilled our 18-year-old dream.”
Usually, teams did fundraisers in advance if they knew that they were going down to the tournament a week earlier. But that wasn’t the case here. Levin and his staff had 24 hours to come up with enough money and the proper transportation to support the team’s trip down to Dover. And luckily, all three leagues in town were generous in giving the team $500 each, with $1,000 coming from the district, to give Southington a total of $2,500.
“We were thrilled to know that we were representing Connecticut,” the manager said. “But we knew going down there that there was going to be teams that had much more talent than we did.”
Although Southington came up with the funds for the trip, fate almost intervened again. Southington won their first-round matchup on Saturday after mercy-ruling Cape Henlopen with 16 hits, 11-1. But they were victorious with just nine players on the field, as their starting pitcher arrived 20 minutes before game time.
Devin Prive powered the Southington lineup by going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a homerun to dead-centerfield that cleared 375 feet. After hitting a homerun, Prive was intentionally walked during his next at-bat, which ended up being the winning run. Prive also finished with four runs scored, four RBI, a pair of doubles, and a walk.
Ben Gaedeke went 4-for-4 with three RBI, two runs scored, and a double. Angelo Calandra pitched a complete game and allowed just three hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
“It seemed like we had won the World Series after that win,” said Levin. “We were just feeling good with everything and knew that whatever happened from then on was going to be a good experience.”
On Sunday, Southington suffered their first loss, 7-1, to district 1, and eventually got eliminated from the tournament after falling, 10-1, to district 18.
In past years, representing teams from Rhode Island had been notorious for trashing the dugouts after being eliminated from the tournament. This year’s tournament was no different. A player from Cranston East was ejected during their second game and the team proceeded leave the dugout a mess, following their elimination.
Levin said that he made sure his team carried a different sense of pride when representing Connecticut though, even through the depths of despair from elimination.
“The first base umpire came up to me after the game that our players play like gentleman,” the manager said. “He went on to say that he respected us a lot and hoped to see us again next year. So after hearing that, I think it was a successful trip down to Delaware.”
District 1 captured the Big League Baseball East Region title by defeating Montoursville, 13-1, in the championship.
“Overall, to know that it was the first year Southington was able to represent Connecticut was a good starting point,” said Levin. “This league will continue to get more popular as the group of kids that play town baseball stick together, from when they’re young to until they’re 18. For years to come, Southington will be representing Connecticut even more.”
Southington Big League Baseball
Southington 11, Cape Henlopen (Delaware) 1 (5)
Saturday, July 16
At Dover, DE
|C. Topper, lf||3||0||1||0|
|B. Topper, rf||2||1||2||0|
HR—Prive. 2B—Cardozo, Prive (2), Gaedeke. BB—Carrier, Prive, Geppert. HBP—B. Topper. SAC—Walasewicz.
Cape Henlopen 010 00x x — 1 3 1
Southington 204 32x x — 11 16 1
Host District 1 (Delaware) 7, Southington 1
Sunday, July 17
At Dover, DE
HOST DISTRICT 1
|B. Topper, 1b||2||0||1||0|
|C. Topper, lf||1||0||0||0|
2B—Barker, Simpson, Carrier. BB—Jordan (2), Collins, Prive, C. Topper. HBP—Ivey.
Host District 1 001 023 1 — 7 8 2
Southington 000 001 0 — 1 3 5
|HOST DISTRICT 1||IP||H||ER||BB||K|
District 18 (New Jersey) 10, Southington 1
Monday, July 18
At Dover, DE
|B. Topper, 3b||2||1||1||0|
|C. Topper, rf||2||0||0||1|
BB—Chirichello (2), Santiago. HBP—Santiago, Gaedeke.
Southington 000 001 0 — 1 1 3
District 18 000 028 x — 10 9 0