WALLINGFORD — Does this sound familiar? The Wallingford Little League All-Star team has advanced to the state finals.
For the fourth time in five years, a Wallingford squad has reached a state Little League final four.
This time around, in a season delayed several months by the coronavirus, it’s in the 12-year-old division. The 2020 squad clinched its berth in dramatic fashion with a 3-1 extra-inning win over Simsbury in the Section II final.
Prior to that, Wallingford won the District 5 tournament by defeating crosstown rival Yalesville 7-4 in the championship game.
Now it’s on to the state finals, which play at Micheal J Drotar Park in Stamford. Wallingford opens against Hamden on Saturday in a 6 p.m. game that will be streamed on Facebook Live.
South Windsor and Montville are the other two teams competing for the state crown. Witih no World Series being contested this year in Williamsport, Pa., the state finals will be the culminating event of the Connecticut Little League season.
“It’s a good group of kids,” Wallingford manager Billy Rich said of his team. “We all work well together. We have good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting. All of the pieces have been falling into place for us.
“With everything going on and the school schedule altered, this tournament has been an outlet for the boys,” Rich added. “They enjoy coming to play and practice and learning the game of baseball.”
Wallingford also made it to the state Little League finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, a three-run that started with a group of players when they were 10-years old.
This year’s team features A.J. Capello, Ryan Casey, Luca Colavolpe, Matt Corso, David Forgione, Max Marker, Kenneth Marrow, Logan Michels, Josh Morrison, Will Quinn, Aaron Rich, Ethan Rich and Scott Wentzell.
Billy Rich is assisted by coaches Mike Morrison, Brian Casey and Mike Colavolpe.
The team opened by sweeping through the District 5 tournament at 5-0.
“We were tested a little bit in districts, but we came together,” BIlly Rich said. “When you get to districts its always a tougher battle.”
The Section II tournament was played over two weekends in Litchfield. Wallingford stumbled out of the gate, dropping a 5-0 decision to Simsbury, then rebounded to beat Shelton 9-4 behind a strong pitching performance from Ethan Rich.
That win set up a rematch with Simsbury in the finals.
Wallingford trailed 1-0 heading into the sixth inning when Max Marker led off the sixth with a solo homer to left-center to tie the game.
The game went to extra innings, where Wallingford won in the eighth. Ryan Casey came through with a two-run single to put Wallingford on top 3-1. The hit scored Will Quinn and Max Marker, who had singled earlier in the frame.
Quinn pitched brilliantly in the start for Wallingford. He threw 6 1/3 innings and fanned 11 before hitting the 85-pitch limit.
Marker finished the game off with a clean eighth inning. He was backed by a diving play at shortstop by Ethan Rich.
“it was a very dramatic win and there were a lot of tears of joy,” Billy Rich said. “When Max hit that homer to tie it, the kids were elated. We preached not giving up until the final out.
“It played out like a storybook. It couldn’t have been written any better for Wallingford.”