The 2018 baseball season came to an end for the Shelton American 12U Little League All-Stars on Saturday morning after they were beaten by Wallingford, 10-2, in the Section 2 Little League tournament finals at Peter J. Foley Field in Naugatuck.
Hindered by six errors and the the eight-strikeout, 72-pitch relief performance by Wallingford’s Kevin Milewski, Shelton American was unable to protect an early 2-0 lead.
“I told our kids that we didn’t play one of our better games today. We were beaten by a very good team. But I also want to commend these kids and their parents. Their commitment over the last six weeks has been extraordinary,” said Shelton American manager John Larkins.
After losing to Wallingford, 7-1, on Thursday night, Shelton American rebounded with 8-6 victory over Avon on Friday night. With bad weather along with heavy rains on the forecast for Saturday afternoon, officials chose to move the game from an original 3 p.m. start to 10 a.m.
Shelton American jumped on Wallingford starter Zach Ginter in the first inning.
The team’s first four hitters, Michael Spadaccino, Nick Coppola, Nicolas Piscioniere and Ayden Sepkaski all had singles. Sepkaski came to bat with the bases loaded and hit a ball just to the left of Ginter. Spadaccino raced home and Coppola followed as Ginter threw the ball wild of first after Sepkaski had already beaten the throw.
With two runners on and still no one out, Gael Quiroga’s hard grounder was fielded by Wallingford shortstop Kyle Mitchell. He opted to out-run Sepkaski to second before throwing out Quiroga at first for the double play.
Austin Leifer followed with a ground-out; second to first.
“Those two defensive plays kept the score at 2-0,” said Wallingford manager Brian Mitchell. “Otherwise, we could’ve been looking at a 5 or 6-0 deficit.”
Shelton American threatened again in the second, loading the bases (Joe Gigliotti reached on an error, Connor Fahey was hit by a pitch and Spadaccino walked).
Brian Mitchell went to the mound, bringing in Milewski.
“I wanted to help my team win and I knew I had to throw strikes to do that,’ Milewski said.
Milewski, who hit a solo home run in the third, did just that. He struck out the next two batters to close out the second before recording two strikeouts in each of the next three innings.
“He’s a constant,” Larkins said about Milewski. “He just does everything well. He isn’t fancy, but he’s good.”
After moving to within one run by scoring once in the second, Wallingford took the lead with three runs in the fourth and broke it open with a five-run fourth.
Milewski retired nine batters in a row before a single by Coppola broke up the string in the fifth. Coppola reached second with one out on a wild pitch. But Milewski got an out on a liner to first baseman Braden Golden and a strikeout.
“We needed him (Milewski) to come in to slow things down,” Mitchell said. “It wasn’t looking good for us early.”
Shelton American attempted one final rally in the sixth.
Gael Quiroga opened with a walk. He was erased, however, as Austin Leifer hit a bounder back to the mound which Milewski fielded, threw to shortstop Kyle Mitchell who then doubled Leifer up at first.
Down to its last out, Shelton American kept the game going. Back-to-back singles by Gigliotti and Fahey, Shelton’s fifth and sixth hits in game, gave them a pair of runners on base.
But on a lofted fly ball, Conor Nickishter made the catch to end the game.
“It’s a hard and emotional way to go out,” John Larkins said. “Every Little Leaguer’s dream is to win at this level, which takes them one step closer to the Little League World Series.”
Larkins used four pitchers on Saturday. He opened with Piscioniere (40 pitches) and followed with Quiroga (37 pitches), Sepkaski (19 pitches) and finished with Payden Larkins (11 pitches).
Coppola was the only SA batter with two hits.
For Wallingford, which scored 25 runs in its three Section 2 wins, Kyle Mitchell, Milewski and Lynch all had two hits and accounted for 11 of their teams’ total safeties. Lynch drove in three runs.
Wallingford now advances to the four-team, double-elimination state finals set to begin on Wednesday night in East Lyme. It will make the third straight trip for the All-Stars.
“We’ve lost their the last two years, so we’ve got something to prove this time,” Milewski said.