After winning three consecutive Cal Ripken District 4 championships, the Norton American 12-year-old all-star team was not going to get rattled by an early deficit.
Trailing 4-0 to Stoughton after the top of the first inning in the District 4 finals on Saturday afternoon, Norton responded like a champion, exploding for 10 runs on the way to a 10-6 victory and the District 4 crown on Field A of the Lee Burchill Complex.
The win completed a perfect 3-0 week for the locals. After receiving a first-round bye, they defeated this same Stoughton team 12-1 in a contest that was halted after four innings because of the mercy rule. Norton then defeated Wrentham 7-3 in the winners’ bracket final last Wednesday night to gain entry in Saturday’s district championship.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids,” said Norton head coach Dan Callahan. “They played very well in the game and played great all week. We played solid, solid fundamental baseball all week. This was our third game and the kids played solid defense and we had solid offense all week. We also pitched well for the most part the entire week.”
The locals now advance to the Cal Ripken state tournament, which will be held from July 9-17 in Chelmsford. Norton will play the hosts on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Fitts Field in Chelmsford. A win would send the locals into a winners’ bracket contest on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Scully Field. A loss to Chelmsford would drop Norton into the loser’s bracket and a must-win situation on Sunday at 1 p.m., back at Fitts Field.
With the win on Saturday, this group of players has now captured four consecutive District 4 crowns, having previously won the title as nine, 10 and 11-year-olds.
“Winning the district title is always a goal of ours,” said Callahan. “We have won it four years in a row now. We have completed the cycle and now we want to build on that.”
Norton banged out 15 hits on Saturday. Aidan McLaughlin was 3-for-3 with two singles, a double, two RBI and two runs scored. Jonathan Levy was 3-for-4 with two singles, a double and two runs scored. Cam Zanoni was 2-for-2 with two singles, a walk and a run scored, while Jay Morris went 2-for-3 with two singles and one run scored.
Christian Schulz was 2-for-3 with two singles, a walk, one RBI and one run scored and David Skiendiel was also 1-for-2 with a single and two RBI. Jack Veglas was 1-for-3 with a home run, one RBI and one run.
After allowing four early runs, McLaughlin settled down on the mound, going the first three innings. He gave up five runs and five hits, while striking out four and walking four. Brett Gauvin took over on the mound in the fourth and was dominant, surrendering one run and three hits over his three innings with six strikeouts and one walk.
Adam Lesiw and Kyle Murphy also contributed to the win with their play on Saturday.
Early on Stoughton stunned the gathering at Field A, scoring four runs in the top of the first inning to open up a 4-0 advantage. But Norton bounced right back with a four-run outburst in the bottom of the frame.
Levy opened the inning with a double to right. He moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single to left by Schulz. Veglas then crushed a home run over the fence in center to score Schulz and make it 4-3. McLaughlin and Morris then had consecutive singles with McLaughlin scoring the tying run when Gauvin reached base on an error.
“When we were down 4-0, the coaches didn’t have to tell the kids anything,” said Callahan. “They told themselves that they could come back. And then they went out and did it. Even when we were behind, the kids never looked nervous and never gave up.”
Stoughton re-took the lead with a run in the top of the third, but the locals responded once again, taking complete control with a six-run surge in the bottom of the frame.
The first six batters for Norton in the inning reached base with Gauvin collecting an RBI on an infield single to tie the game at 5-5. A two-run single by Skiendiel gave the locals the lead for good at 7-5. A sacrifice fly by Jack Callahan brought home Zanoni and made it 8-5. McLaughlin helped his own cause by lacing a two-run double to center field, which gave the hosts a commanding 10-5 lead.
Stoughton scratched out a run in the top of the sixth, but Gauvin struck out the final two batters to end the threat. Gauvin recorded six of his nine outs in the game on strikeouts.