The Newtown One-Eyed Cats 11-year-old baseball team finished second in the New England Regional, losing to neighboring town Danbury in the final in Dover, N.H., in early August. The Connecticut teams proved to be the two best teams in the tournament, going a combined 7-1 versus the teams from Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Danbury won its first three games by convincing margins. After winning in the first round, Connecticut state champion Newtown lost to Exeter, N.H., and had to fight back through the loser’s bracket, but did so in a convincing manner, eventually avenging the loss to Exeter and then winning a thrilling extra inning game against Danbury to force one final game for the championship. Newtown, which finished with a 21-5 record, won the state tournament two weeks prior, capturing the winner’s bracket and defeating Danbury in the championship. This time, the tables were turned.
Newtown won its first game against Hudson, Mass., 13-2 in a four-inning, mercy-rule contest on August 3. Todd Petersen was 2-for-2 with a double, three RBI, and three runs scored and Luke Barrett had three hits and scored three runs to lead Newtown. Shea Talbot had two hits, including a double and three RBIs, and James Doyle had two hits.
In game two, on August 4, Exeter jumped out to an early lead with six runs in the first two innings, but Newtown fought back before falling 11-6. Singles by Petersen, Barrett, and Shea Talbot scored the first run in the first inning. Michael Cotton singled, Petersen walked, Barrett drove in Cotton with a sacrifice fly, and Shea Talbot doubled home Petersen to make the score 6-3 in the third. In the fourth, Dan Mason, Trevor Tyrell, and Ben Talbot singled to load the bases. James Schumacher got hit by a pitch to force in Mason, and Petersen lined the ball to the left field corner for a two-run double to tie the game. However, Exeter bounced right back with five runs in the top of the fifth to put the game away.
Forced to the loser’s bracket, Newtown defeated New Bedford, Mass., 8-1 on August 5. Starting pitcher Ben Talbot hurled three shutout innings to earn the victory and contributed a double at the plate. Doyle got the save, pitching three innings in relief. Shea Talbot was 2-for-2 with three RBI, including a two-run double. Cotton contributed a RBI single and scored twice. The defensive play of the game was made in the second inning by Newtown third baseman Bryan Vander Have who fielded a sharp grounder, stepped on third for the force out and fired to first baseman Petersen, who made a great scoop for the inning-ending double play.
Next, Newtown faced the host team Dover on August 6. Newtown jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first when Cotton (3-for-3 with three stolen bases and three runs scored) led off the game with a hard single, and Shea Talbot singled him home and then later scored on a balk. Newtown expanded the lead in the third when Barrett drove in Cotton with a sacrifice fly. After Doyle got out of a bases loaded jam, only giving up one run in the top of the fourth, Newtown put the game away with five in the bottom of the fourth. Doyle singled with two outs, and four Dover errors were followed by an RBI double by Cotton, a single by Petersen, and two-RBI single by Barrett to close the scoring in an 8-1 victory. Ben Talbot pitched three shutout innings for the second consecutive night, and Doyle again followed with quality relief, giving up just one run in two innings. Mason got the last three outs, including one the defensive play of the game when he fielded a hard grounder and threw home to catcher Schumacher, who fired to first to complete the 1-2-3 double play.
On August 7, the One-Eyed Cats were one win away from the championship round and faced Exeter, which lost to Danbury in the winner’s bracket final the day before. Mason pitched five innings of three-hit baseball, allowing only one run to lead Newtown to a 4-1 victory. Mason also was a star at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two RBI. Vander Have pitched a scoreless sixth to notch the save.
Newtown went on top in the second when Mason singled home Shea Talbot, but Exeter tied the game in the bottom of the inning. In the fourth, Cotton led off with a walk, Petersen followed with a bunt single, and Shea Talbot drove in Cotton with a hard single through the left side. Vander Have drove in Petersen with a groundout and Mason drove in Talbot with a single to right. Doyle lead off the fifth with a double to right center, but Newtown could not score him.
The defensive play of the game was made in the bottom of the fifth when, with no outs and a runner on second, Cotton fielded a grounder at shortstop, threw out the runner at first, and first baseman Petersen rifled the throw to third to third to snag the runner trying to advance.
On August 8, Newtown faced the task of trying to beat Danbury twice for the championship. In game one, Vander Have was 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI, and Petersen was 2-for-4 with two runs scored as Newtown pulled out a 9-8 extra-inning win. Ben Talbot started on the mound and pitched three innings, giving up just one unearned run. Doyle pitched the seventh for the save. Newtown took a 6-0 lead after 2½ innings, but Danbury scored four in fourth to make it 6-5. Newtown added one in the fifth for a 7-5 lead, but Danbury scored two in the bottom of the sixth on sacrifice flies by Jack Hall and Pat Iannetta.
The game went to extra innings, Schumacher led off the top of the seventh with a double, Cotton walked, and Petersen drove in a run on a fielder’s choice and Vander Have singled in another for a 9-7 lead. Danbury scored one in bottom of seventh, but Newtown held on for the victory to force a second game.
In game two, which took place immediately after game one, Newtown fell 9-3. Newtown jumped on top in bottom of first on an infield single by Cotton, an RBI double to the left field corner by Barrett, and an RBI single by Shea Talbot.
In the second inning, Danbury scored five runs on two Newtown errors and a few Danbury singles. Danbury tacked on three more in third on three hits, three walks, and a hit by pitch. Newtown seemed to run out of gas and barely threatened pitchers Rich Weckerle and Danny Villalona.
Danbury earned its second consecutive New England Regional title, but in the 11-year-old age bracket, there is no World Series. Last year, the team advanced to the World Series and tied for fifth place. The next World Series will be held next year for the 12-year olds, and Newtown hopes to compete in the regional for the right to get there.