Matched up against state champions from around New England, Newtown’s 13-year-old Babe Ruth baseball team — the Wolf Pack — certainly had its work cut out in the New England Regional Tournament which it hosted at High Meadow Field on the campus of Fairfield Hills this week.
The Wolf Pack, after a tourney-opening loss, earned two nail-biting wins to stay alive in the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament before finally seeing its season end at the hands of Waterford on July 29.
Waterford scratched out four runs with two outs in the sixth inning to escape with a 5-4 victory to advance to the semifinal round against Western Massachusetts representative, Westfield, at 6 pm on Wednesday, July 30. The winner of that game was set to move on to the championship round, needing to defeat the lone undefeated squad, Maine, twice the next day (4 pm and 7 pm if necessary). With just one more win, Maine would earn the right to represent New England in the World Series.
All four of the Pack’s games were decided by two or fewer runs. The Wolf Pack opened with a 5-3 setback to Portsmouth, N.H., on July 26, the most “lopsided” game for the Pack, which immediately faced the prospect of an early exit from its own tourney.
“There was a lot of pressure to not go 0-2 because of double elimination,” Newtown Manager Bruce Terry acknowledged.
The boys from Newtown bounced back with an 8-7 win over Vermont the next morning, and followed that up with a 4-3 edging of Arlington, the Eastern Massachusetts representative, on Monday.
The Wolf Pack built an early lead against Vermont and led 8-5 before hanging on. Luke Kirby had two walks and a single, Robert Murray had three of his team’s 12 walks, Jack Miller doubled and singled, and Harry Lucas, Luke Melillo, and Easton Ricks all delivered singles.
The next day, the team seized a 4-0 advantage before holding off Arlington to advance. Starting pitcher David Kohler was solid before getting into some late-game trouble. Kyle Roche came on in relief and got the final out of the sixth inning with just one pitch before closing the door with a one-two-three seventh.
“The kids never lost their fighting spirit,” Terry said.
Against Waterford, Newtown again jumped out to an early lead, sparked by a two-run triple off the bat of Miller. Lucas had a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded to score the first run and, after Lucas’s triple, Aaron Kirby drove him home with a single.
Waterford was held scoreless by stellar pitching from Roche through five innings but wasn’t able to come out for the sixth because pitchers are not allowed to toss more than seven innings in two consecutive games. Waterford took advantage of some walks, errors, and soft hits that found holes in the playing field to rally and score four times with two outs in the sixth.
The manager was disappointed with the outcome, but not in his team.
“I kept telling them I’ll be okay with any outcome as long as they fight hard with every pitch, which they did,” Terry said.
Ben Terry, Robert DiSibio, and Cole Demirjian all had significant contributions in the field and at the plate during the Pack’s tournament run.
Newtown was at an on-paper disadvantage, despite home field advantage. The Wolf Pack was awarded the role of host for the tourney because of a combination of the team’s as well as that of its home field, meaning it didn’t need to win its state bracket to play. Despite the automatic entry and the fact other teams won their state tourneys, that didn’t prevent Terry from thinking his team had a legitimate shot of winning it all. As evidenced by the outcomes, the Pack was right in the mix.
“There were good teams in the tournament but I didn’t feel we were overmatched by any of them,” said the manager, adding that as things unfolded he believed his team would come out on top. He said the Pack could have prevailed if the offense heated up like it did earlier in the season.
“One of the nice things about hosting is you know what you’re going to do at the end of the summer,” added Terry, noting that other teams have to wait and see if they would be participating.
A lot of effort on the part of volunteer parents went into making this tournament possible. “I’m very appreciative of the parents, especially my wife who is kind of the hidden leader of it,” Terry said of his significant other, Laura, who earned the nickname “Bossy Pants” in the tourney program.
All in all, this was a solid campaign for the Wolf Pack, which finished 13-5-1 and won the Jimmy Fund Tournament for the fifth year in a row. Terry was assisted by coaches Dale Demirjian and Ken Roche.