The New Canaan 12U All-Star baseball team will represent the state of Connecticut in the Cal Ripken New England Regional Tournament this weekend in Nashua, New Hampshire.
New Canaan started the tournament with a 7-0 shutout against Newtown on June 29th. The Rams scored six runs in the third inning, with RBIs by Alex Benevento, Sam Bisesi, Jack Sommers and Teddy Cooney.
Brian “Salty” Balkun pitched five strong innings for the Rams, striking out five and giving up only one hit and no earned runs. Danny Rogers came on in relief, pitching one inning and allowing no hits to complete the shutout.
The next game, on June 30th, was a thriller against New Milford. After surrendering an early four-run lead, the Rams clawed their way back in to the game, trailing 6-4 in the top of the sixth inning. That’s when the bats came alive.
Mason Pickering started the rally off with a line drive single to right field. Following a walk by Jack Sheffield and a single by Sommers, Abe Wheeler poked a single to right field, driving in a run to cut the lead to 6-5. Additional singles by Benevento and Bisesi, along with key fielding errors by Milford, led to five more runs to give the Rams the 10-6 victory.
Benevento started on the mound against New Milford, giving up two earned runs and one hit. Jack Jensen came on in relief pitching 3.1 stingy innings with no earned runs and four strikeouts. Sommers completed the pitching duties, tossing 1.2 innings with two strikeouts and no earned runs.
The next game came on July 1st against a stubborn Milford team. Milford had beaten the Rams twice in the preceding district tournament, so New Canaan was eager for revenge. Vindication came in the form of a lop-sided 13-4 victory for the Rams. New Canaan was relentless, peppering Milford with 14 hits. Rogers and Connor Lytle both collected three hits, with additional fire power provided by Sheffield and Benevento who delivered two hits each.
Benevento started on the mound for New Canaan, striking out six batters and allowing only 2 earned runs in 4.1 innings. Rogers finished up, striking out three batters and allowing no hits in 1.2 innings of work to secure the win.
After a tough 4-1 loss to perennial powerhouse Norwalk on July 4th, the stage was set for a dramatic semi-final rematch against Milford on July 5th. Owing to the fact that the Norwalk team has already secured a spot in the 2018 Cal Ripken World Series (by virtue of being the runner-up in 2016), both New Canaan and Milford knew that the winner of this game would go to New Hampshire to represent the state of Connecticut in the Cal Ripken New England Regional Tournament.
The Rams scored early and often, starting with RBIs by Henry Silva and Wheeler in the first inning. The Rams went on to garner nine hits throughout the game. Danny Rogers led the way, going three-for-three at the plate. Wheeler confounded the Milford pitchers, pounding in a team-leading four RBIs, while Silva and Benevento plated two RBIs each. When all was said and done, it was New Canaan who came out on top, winning a decisive 9-2 victory.
Benevento was the winning pitcher for New Canaan, striking out five and allowing no earned runs in four innings. Jensen came in to close out the last two innings. The lanky right-hander stymied Milford, retiring six of seven batters, sealing the victory for the Rams and securing a berth in the New England regional tournament for New Canaan.
“I feel that these boys have worked hard and put in a lot of time over the past five years, and this is a fitting reward for their efforts,” said coach Brian Rogers after the game.
The Cal Ripken New England Regional Tournament begins this weekend. New Canaan will face the New Hampshire state champions on Saturday in Nashua, New Hampshire.