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New England Champions! Third Time Is The Charm For Cats In Regional Title Run



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The One Eyed Cats had some unfinished business to take care of after a bitter end to last year's New England Regional Tournament. The Cats made their third straight run to the regional championship game. This time, the U15 squad won the big matchup and is moving on to a bigger tourney: The World Series.

Newtown's lineup defeated Rhode Island 12-2 in the pinnacle contest, in Rochester, N.H., on July 28. The win came the same afternoon as the team's semifinal-round 7-2 triumph over Pittsfield, Mass.

"It was very exciting," said Joe Pagett, who pitched Newtown to victory in the semifinal round game.

"It feels really good. We knew we could do it," catcher James Schumacher added. "This year was our year and we knew going in that we had a good chance to win it."

Newtown Coach Chris Petersen said his team had a legitimate chance to win last year's title but some controversy played a role in the outcome. It was discovered, a year ago, that one of the teams threw a game in pool play to help another team qualify for the playoff round. Long story short, after playing three games each, the teams started the tourney all over again, and Newtown's pitching, which had been lined up for a run to the title, Petersen believed, took a hit. The Cats still managed to reach the pinnacle game.

"In the end it was a good life lesson that life's not fair," Petersen said.

Life is pretty good for the Cats, and they're feeling better than fair after this year's run to the top.

The Cats cruised through the tournament, posting a 3-0 mark in July 22-25 pool play, then besting Vermont 9-3 in the first round of the playoff bracket on July 27, en route to a 6-0 tourney performance. Newtown outscored opponents 57-19.

The Babe Ruth World Series is scheduled for August 10-17, in Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

"It's going to be really fun going on a plane and spending time in Tennessee," Patrick Hurley anticipates. "It should be challenging but I feel confident we can do well."

Petersen noted that the Tri-County Maine team his squad lost to in the regional finals two years in a row reached the World Series championship round two summers ago. Based on that, the coach believes what his team has seen in the New England tourney is a good indicator of what is to come.

"There's going to be so much tension and excitement," said Petersen, adding that he is encouraging his players to be calm and enjoy the experience. "You can't win on emotion. You need to relax. Whoever is the most relaxed is going to win usually."

In the 12-2 win over Rhode Island, Newtown fell behind 1-0 in the first inning but it did not take long for the Cat bats to get going. In the top of the second, with Mark Leonardi on second, Michael Cotton laid down a perfect bunt to put runners on the corners. Newtown executed a double steal and Leonardi scored with a headfirst slide around the catcher. Patrick Hurley followed with a single and Jack Mulligan walked to load the bases.

Trevor Tyrrell then delivered a clutch two-out single to score two runs. Todd Petersen followed with another hit to make the score 5-1.

Rhode Island had a rally in the bottom of the third. Rhode Island scored a run and had the bases loaded with two outs when Gavin Connors made a great snag of a rocket hit to third to end the threat.

Starter Jack Mulligan settled down after that and ended up pitching five innings. He gave up four hits while striking out four.

In the fourth, a clutch two-out hit by Connors scored Mulligan and Petersen. Bryan Vander Have followed with a double to score Connors and extend the lead to 8-2.

Newtown put the game out of reach with four more combined runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Connors, Petersen, and Hurley all had key hits.

Mason came on to pitch the final two innings and retired all six batters, striking out three.

Connors was 3-for-4 with four runs batted in, Tyrrell and Vander Have both had two RBI, Petersen was 3-for-4 with three runs batted in, and Mulligan went 1-for-2 and scored two runs.

In the 7-2 victory over Pittsfield, Newtown fell behind 2-0 but that was all starter Joe Pagett allowed. Pittsfield only managed four hits and Padgett stuck out six.

It took the Cats a few innings to get their bats going, but once they did, they did not stop.

In the top of the third, Connors knocked a one-out single to score Tyrell and Petersen. Vander Have followed with a single to center. One out later, Schumacher crushed a ball 320 feet off the left field wall to score Connors and Vander Have. Cotton finished the third-inning scoring off with a RBI single.

Newtown added two insurance runs in the fifth with two outs. Shea Talbot singled, Schumacher hit his second double of the game, and Cotton added a single.

Newtown played lockdown defense the rest of the way and Dan Mason came in to record the final out of the game.

Schumacher was 2-for-3 with two doubles, three RBI, and two runs scored, Pagett also went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles in addition to pitching 6 2/3 innings, and Connors was 1-for-3 with a pair of RBI.

In the 9-3 triumph over Vermont in the tourney quarterfinals, Talbot started the game and went five innings on the mound. Talbot allowed three runs on two hits. He struck out four batters and walked eight. Dan Mason came in to close it out with two hitless innings; Mason stuck out three and walked four.

Vermont took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, and the Cats answered with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the frame. Connors worked a leadoff walk and Vander Have singled. The runners moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Leonardi. Schumacher knocked them both in with a single to right center, giving the Cats a 2-1 lead.

In the third, Vermont took the lead back with a bases-loaded hit by Garrett Forgan, making it 3-2.

The Cats again responded in the bottom of the inning. Hurley, and Tyrrell walked and both moved up a base on a wild pitch. This set the stage for Connors to drive both home with a base hit to right field. The Cats had the lead 4-3 and never looked back and built a 7-3 lead through three innings.

Mulligan walked and Dan Mason reached on an error. An RBI single by Petersen scored Mulligan. Mason with Petersen came around to score with good base running and a passed ball.

In the sixth, Vander Have singled and scored on Schumacher's double to the gap. Schumacher later came around to cap off the scoring.

Schumacher finished 2-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in and Connors was 1-for-2 with a walk and pair of RBI.

The One Eyed Cats have a GoFundMe page to raise money to offset travel and accommodations for the trip to Tennessee; visit bit.ly/2uQWL31 for information. 

Members of the One Eyed Cats, including Patrick Hurley (No. 34), pile on top of each other after capturing the Babe Ruth New England Regional championship, in Rochester, N.H., on July 28. (Tony Leonardi photo)
(Tony Leonardi photo)
(Tony Leonardi photo)
Mark Leonardi, above, slides into home with a key run to help spark a rally as the One Eyed Cats defeated Rhode Island in the regional title game. Patrick Hurley (No. 34) scores a run, and infielder Michael Cotton throws to first. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Jack Mulligan throws a pitch. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Gavin Connors, Jack Mulligan, and Trevor Tyrrell celebrate a run. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Todd Petersen heads home with a run. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Patrick Hurley slides into home. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Joe Pagett delivers a pitch. (Tony Leonardi photo)
Michael Cotton throws the ball to first base. (Tony Leonardi photo)
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