BERLIN – Wallingford’s 11-and-12-year-old Little League All-Stars know a thing or two about winning.
As 9-and-10-year-olds in 2016, they were the District V and Section II champions. As 11-year-olds they defended their crown and went on to finish as the runner-up at New England’s.
Monday night, those winning ways continued, as Wallingford handled crosstown foes Yalesville 10-0 in four innings in their first game of the District V playoff contest at Berlin’s Bill Petit Little League Complex.
“I would say 11 of them have been playing together since they were nine,” Wallingford head coach Brian Mitchell said of his team. “They’ve been playing together for a long time. That helps.”
The chemistry and experience showed, as Wallingford took advantage of some Yalesville miscues on defense to put up seven runs in the second inning.
Jack Pesta started the rally with a walk against Yalesville’s starter Trevor Held. Wallingford starting pitcher Zach Ginter helped himself out with a double down the right field line to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out.
After a James Lynch RBI groundout, Wallingford catcher Kyle Stolting ripped a single up the middle to give them a 2-0 lead.
Held struck out No. 9 hitter Connor Nickischer, but it would be the last out he would get.
Leadoff man Owen Rich smoked a double in the gap, and came around to score on an overthrow, putting Wallingford ahead, 4-0.
Yalesville would change pitchers, but the team’s third error of the day led to a Braden Golden 2-run double to cap the seven run second.
“Really our problem today was executing on defense,” Yalesville coach Joe Carmen said. “We played a lot of games clean with no errors, today we didn’t. I think we come back tomorrow, a little more confidence and hopefully we will have a good game.”
Wallingford has been an offensive juggernaut this entire summer, as they outscored opponents 56-15 in pool play, leading to a 5-1 record.
“Hitting is a weird thing,” Mitchell said. “It can come and go. You saw [Held] dominated us in the first inning and then we just started putting some good at-bats together.
“I think our kids adjusted well. I thought they started to settle in and put better at-bats together [after the first inning].”
Held struck out the side in the first inning, but was unable to hold the Wallingford offense from there.
Yalesville ended up using four pitchers on the day, but Carmen says that they are still in good position going into tomorrow.
“Since the start, we’ve played it one game at a time,” Carmen said. “We’re just going to forget about this one, go get some ice cream and come back and play tomorrow.”
Ginter was fantastic for Wallingford on the bump, as he allowed just one hit over four innings of work, striking out nine.
“[Ginter] has been our secret weapon this year,” Mitchell said. “He’s pitched phenomenal. He loves to pitch, that’s what he loves to do. He’s happiest when he’s on the mound and you can see it in his face, he’s smiling, he’s happy, he’s doing his best out there. Everything works when he’s pitching.”
Ginter struck out eight of the first 10 batters that he faced, sandwiching in an error and a hit by pitch in between.
“[Ginter] has been great,” Mitchell said. “We’ve had the luxury of having really good pitching. We have five, six kids who can really pitch. [Ginter] and a couple of others are at the top of the list. It’s been nice to see him develop from 10 to 11 to 12 the way he has.”
The lone Yalesville hit was picked up by third basement Paul Gorry in the top of the fourth. Still, Carmen believes that it isn’t time to start making last minute adjustments.
“I don’t think we’re going to think too much [about our approach at the plate],” Carmen said. “We are just going to continue to do those things that we’ve done that has gotten us to this point.”
Mitchell was very proud of how his team battled against a pitcher like Held, saying that they always come prepared, especially when the lights are brightest.
“I just think that they’re playing well right now,” Mitchell said of his team. “They seem to play well in big games. That’s all I can really say about them. They get up for big games, they play well in big games and they do the little things that help them win.”
While Yalesville will try to avoid elimination tomorrow at Petit Field, Wallingford has put themselves in a good position to advance with the win. They will be in action at Southington’s Recreation Park on Tuesday. District V is a double elimination tournament and the championship game will be held on Friday at Recreation Park.
“[Yalesville] is a great team,” Mitchell said. “We knew what we were in store for today. We had to play really well to beat a team like that.”