All levels of Little League advance to sectionals

The Shelton Little League 12s were District 3 champions and runner-up in Section 2. Team members (front row) are Harrison Souza, Zach Bohm, Sean Cleary, Ascher Moccaie, Zach Burlone, Jackson Hyner, Gavin Rovinelli, Will Widomski, H.T. Jones, Cole St. Pierre, Terry Dunn, Jake Rios, Derek Larkins, and Jake Failla; (second row) coach Bob Burlone, coach Harry Jones and manager John Larkins.

The Shelton Little League 12s were District 3 champions and runner-up in Section 2. Team members (front row) are Harrison Souza, Zach Bohm, Sean Cleary, Ascher Moccaie, Zach Burlone, Jackson Hyner, Gavin Rovinelli, Will Widomski, H.T. Jones, Cole St. Pierre, Terry Dunn, Jake Rios, Derek Larkins, and Jake Failla; (second row) coach Bob Burlone, coach Harry Jones and manager John Larkins.

Shelton Little League / Contributed photo

Shelton Little League merged in 2019.

The combination of talent and coaching resulted in success at every level this summer.

“Everyone could relax and just play baseball,” 12-year-old manager John Larkins said of playing a full season after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the 2019 campaign. “The SLL 10’s 11's and 12's all won the District 3 championships. The 11's and 12's lost in the Section 2 title game. The 10's won Sectionals and finished third in the state. It is a proud moment for Shelton Little League.”

Shelton 12s used its pitching depth to navigate its way through District play.

“We were well balanced. Pretty much every kid on our roster pitched in a regular season Little League game. Out of that, 10 of them could have gotten an opportunity to get on the mound for us in All-Stars,” said Larkins, who was assisted by Bob Burlone and Harry Jones. “We have 14 kids that can hit, we have good team speed, and that worked out for us.”

Shelton never had to go deep into the bullpen. It stayed in the winner’s bracket in Districts and never had to use a third pitcher in any of its games.

H.T. Jones, Gavin Rovinelli, Cole St. Pierre and Jake Rios were go-to pitchers.

“H.T. Jones was our No. 1,” Larkins said. “He has a very good fastball. The knuckle curve is his second pitch. Gavin was our second No. 1. I could flip a coin and feel good going with either one. Cole. Was our No. 3 pitcher. No. 4 was Jake Rios. Both throw two pitches well.”

“Zach Burlone was outstanding behind the plate. He hit the ball well. Our second catcher, who caught our first Simsbury game, is Asher Oki and he was great. Jackson Hyner played first base the majority of the time. He is a lefty batter. Second base was Sean Cleary and Derek Larkins, they split times. Jake Rios was our starting shortstop. Gavin Rovinelli was his backup. Gavin could also start at third. Cole St. Pierre was our primary third baseman. Multi-talented Terry Dunn was an infielder-outfielder who could pitch. Will Widomski batted .500 through the tournament. We could plug him in at third or in outfield.”

Jake Fialla and Zach Bohm led the outfield.

Larkins said: “Jake Fialla was our center fielder and leadoff batter. In all my years of coaching, Jake may be the fastest kid I’ve coached in any sport. He is one of the most gifted baseball players I’ve seen. He is only 12 and is going to project well moving forward.

“Zack Bohm, probably our second fastest player, was in left field. In right it was a platoon of kids. Sometimes it was H.T. Jones. Other times Rovinelli, Cole St. Pierre or Harrison Souza would be in the outfield, depending on who was on the mound.”

Sectional

Shelton, Simsbury and Yalesville advanced to compete for the state title and a spot in the New England Regional.

Shelton defeated Yalesville 11-3 in its first game.

Larkins said: “We beat Yalesville with a balanced effort of pitching and hitting. Both teams made some errors in the field. We hit the ball hard and made it difficult for them to defend us. Through the batting order we can hit the ball. “

Shelton lost Simsbury 4-3 the next day.

“Jake Rios threw a complete game for us,” Larkins said. “He pitched the best he had all year. We did enough to put us in position to win that game, we just didn’t get the timely hit we needed.”

Yalesville then defeated Simsbury 8-5. The round-robin results saw run differential decide the finalists. Shelton earned the high seed. Simsbury was second. Yalesville was the odd team out.

“It was both team’s No. 1’s pitching. Both threw hard,” Larkins said. “We ended up giving up two runs with two outs and two outs in the fifth. Their kid took a good hack at a good pitch and put it into part of the outfield where nobody was. The took the lead 6-4. We couldn’t come back and score.

“It was a one game elimination. If it was best of three, I feel we were built to go further. We had options with our pitching. It was painful. I felt we had the right pieces set up. That’s the way Sectionals go.”

Coaching farewell

Larkins began coaching high school football in 1985. He came back in mid-90s to coach football and baseball at Newtown High. This summer is his last guiding Shelton Little League players.

“I’ve been coaching at a lot of levels,” he said. “My Little League experience began with my own kids and I jumped in whole heartedly. I joined the Board of Directors with Shelton American. I’m a special education teacher in Norwalk. I’m in the business of kids all day long. To work with kids on a baseball diamond is a whole other level of energy.

“This was my last team to coach. These 14 kids were as good as any 14 kids I’ve ever coached. When you look in the eyes of those kids that you’ve just spent the last month with every day, that makes it tough to walk away. Some of these kids I’ve coached a half of a dozen times.

“I wish we had a chance to hoist a bigger trophy. Down the road I think these kids now have a lasting memory. During these months of June and July 2021 they accomplished a lot. They should be proud. I believe each of them will advance and play at the high school level. The sky is the limit. Each has that potential.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354