The host Newtown Renegades baseball team used a pair of late-game heroics to pull off victories in their first two games of the Cal Ripken 11U New England Regional Tournament at Glander Field on August 2 and 3.
With the victories, the Renegades are just two (or as many as three) wins away from capturing first place in this double elimination tourney. The Renegades will host New Milford at 5 pm on Tuesday, August 5, with the winner advancing to the championship round on Thursday, August 7 (and Friday, August 8, if necessary). The loser of Tuesday’s game will still have a chance to fight its way into the pinnacle round by battling out of the loser’s bracket with a win on Wednesday.
The Renegades overcame a 7-1 deficit to top Exeter, N.H., 8-7 in the team’s first game, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth and final inning. Newtown’s squad proceeded to break a 3-3 tie with two runs in the top of the sixth and held off Keene, N.H., the next day.
Trailing Exeter by six runs in the third inning of Saturday’s contest, the Renegades got back into the game when Joey Rios hit a three-run homerun. Dillon Robinson took the mound in the top of the fourth and held Exeter scoreless for three innings. With Exeter still up 7-4 in the bottom of sixth, Josh Taylor hit a solo home run and CJ Demers followed with a two-run single that plated John Godino and Robinson and tied the game at 7-7. Luke Galer scored the winning run on a mad dash from third base on a passed ball.
The next day, Newtown pulled out a back-and-forth battle with some timely hitting and clutch pitching. John Godino broke a deadlock with a run-scoring single down the first base line and the Renegades tacked on an insurance run before holding off Keene, which was designated the home team and batted last in this matchup.
Taylor closed out the win, escaping a jam after Keene put two runners on base with no outs. A sacrifice bunt attempt was foiled in an unusual play in which a Keene hitter’s tossed bat hit the ball in the field of play. Instead of runners on second and third and one out, the batter was ruled out and the situation was reset and the runners had to go back first and second. Not only was the batter out but so, too, was a Keene parent who, after a brief but heated argument with the umpires, was thrown out of the game. Taylor proceeded to retire the next two batters to seal the win.
The tournament features some of the best teams, including state champions, from throughout New England. Connecticut state champion Danbury and Newtown, being the host team based on its competiveness, field, and reputation within the Cal Ripken program, received automatic tourney bids. Maine and Vermont did not enter teams, opening slots for New Milford and two teams each from New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the eight-team bracket. Heading into day three of the tournament, Newtown and New Milford were the only unbeaten teams, although it hasn’t been easy for the Renegades.
“When you get a bunch of talented teams like this together it’s a real nail-biting experience,” Renegades Manager Jim Robinson said.
Win or lose, having the opportunity to host the tourney is a rewarding, but hard work-filled experience for the home team, Robinson notes.
“It’s very exciting. It’s a lot of work but it’s been going well,” said Robinson, adding that the efforts of volunteer parents, led by Coach Adam Taylor and his wife, Jennifer Taylor, have been significant throughout the tourney.