Nothing short of a state championship will do for the Norton American 12-year-old all-star team this year.
The local squad will head to Chelmsford on Saturday to begin play in the Cal Ripken State Tournament, looking to eclipse their performances from the last three years and return to town with a state title.
This group of players has won four consecutive Cal Ripken District 4 championships, but will be looking for their first state crown next week in Chelmsford.
“We have been there the last three years and we would like to win it all this year,” said Norton head coach Dan Callahan. “Our goal this year is to win states and nothing else. I’m very confident in this team. These kids are playing the best I have seen them play since I have been coaching them. They are playing some very good ball right now.”
As 9-year-olds in 2009, Norton dropped both of its games at the state tournament, but bounced back in 2010 as 10-year-olds to reach the finals before losing to rival Raynham. A year ago, the team advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated.
Raynham was once again a thorn in Norton’s side last summer, handing the locals an early defeat and sending the team into the loser’s bracket. But Norton was able to bounce back and reach the semifinals.
“Raynham has been our arch nemesis the last few years,” said Callahan. “They always give us a tough time. Raynham has been tough competition for us.”
The Norton American 12-year-old all-star team consists of Jack Callahan, Brett Gauvin, Adam Lesiw, Jonathan Levy, Ryan Mazzola, Aidan McLaughlin, Jay Morris, Kyle Murphy, Christian Schulz, David Skiendiel, Jack Veglas and Cam Zanoni.
“All the kids work well together,” said Callahan. “Some of them have been playing together for the last four or five years. They compliment each other very well.”
The locals punched their ticket to the state tournament with an exciting victory over Stoughton in the District 4 championship game last Saturday afternoon on Field A of the Lee Burchill Baseball Complex. Trailing 4-0 after the top of the first inning, Norton exploded for 10 runs on the way to a 10-6 victory and the District 4 crown.
The win completed a perfect 3-0 week for the locals. After receiving a first-round bye, they defeated the 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 to gain entry in the district championship.
In preparation for next week’s state tournament, Norton continued to have its hitting shoes during play this week in the Hockomock Summer Baseball League. The locals scored 12 runs during a 15-12 loss to Norfolk on Tuesday and then exploded for 19 runs during a 19-1 win over Foxboro on Wednesday night on Field A at the Burchill Complex.
“I’m very happy with the way the kids are playing right now,” said Callahan. “We are swinging the bats really well. We are also playing good defense and have very good pitching. Our pitchers just have to continue to hit their spots.”
The 10-team state tournament, which will be held at the Chelmsford Baseball Complex, will include squads from Norton, Chelmsford, Raynham, Winchester, Plymouth (North), Burlington, Weymouth (South), Halifax, Lowell (Shedd Park) and Tyngsboro.
Norton will begin tournament play on Saturday at 2 p.m. when the squad faces the hosts from Chelmsford at Fitts Field. A victory would send the locals into a winner’s bracket game against Tyngsboro on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at Scully Field. A loss on Saturday would drop Norton into the loser’s bracket and a must-win situation against the loser of the game between Plymouth North and Burlington on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fitts Field.
“I feel pretty good about the team,” said Callahan. “But the kids have to come to every game focused. They sometimes take time off and you can’t do that at states. They have to show intensity all the time. They have to always bring their best games to the field.”