11U Wilton Softball Moves Forward in State Tourney, with Coach & Fan Support
Editor’s Note: Chris Kelly, the author of this report, is also manager of the 11U team. He, along with coaches Scott Schwartz and Joe Guglielmo, have put in countless hours with their players (one of whom is related to GMW’s editor). Kelly wrote in the previous game’s write-up that the way the girls played “was youth sports at its very best.” These three parent/coaches, as well as others–among them George Krafick, Todd Klyver, Nicholas Prior, Chris Stengrim, Mallory Rochefort, Gerry Davis, Katrina Rusin, Sean Burrow, Rommie Samai, Amanda Samai, Dirk Van Hyst, Matt McMahon, and Nicole Sidor, Pam Nessel and Christa Nessel, and coach/league director John Morello–deserve high praise for their guidance, expertise and dedication throughout the season and post-season play. The way they have coached and mentored is parent-led youth sports at its finest. Many thanks!
While the final standings of the Connecticut Little League 11U State Tournament will not be determined until later this week, what has already been decided is that the 2018 season has been a success for the Wilton girls. Following up on their edge-of-the-seat walk-off win against the Berlin All Stars on Thursday evening, July 12, Wilton’s 11U team overwhelmed East Hartford by a score of 22-to-2 on Saturday morning, July 14, at Unity Park in Trumbull.
Wilton’s offense took advantage of its “visitor” status in Saturday’s contest by scoring 15 runs on 10 hits before East Hartford had an opportunity to bat in the first inning. The offensive charge was led by first baseman Abby Schwartz, who went 2-for-2 with a single, a double and two walks, and second baseman Eva Filipponi, who hit a scorching triple in the first inning on her way to a 1-for-2 game.
Much like in Thursday’s game, each of Wilton’s 11U players contributed to this win–and each of them scored at least one run in the game. Catcher Katie Kelly went 2-for-3 with a single, a double and a walk, and she shared co-MVP honors with Lauren Buchanan, playing in the first post-season game of her young career. Lauren singled and drove in a run, and she turned a nice play on defense after being substituted in for Filipponi at second base in the second inning.
Shortstop Allie Schwartz and left fielder Lauren Sanfilippo each walked twice and scored twice. Teagan Stengrim, who started at third base for the second straight game, reached base three times and scored three times. Lucie Prior relieved Sanfilippo in the second inning in left field, and at the plate she walked twice and scored. Poppy Herve substituted in right field, walked and scored, while Mallory Tomasulo notched her first post-season hit with a single in the third inning. Finally, starting center fielder Abby Seeberger continued her hot hitting, swatting two singles in the first inning and scoring two runs.
Wilton’s defense did not face many chances, in part due to the game being called after three innings in accordance with Little League’s “mercy rule”. However, the bigger factor in the lack of defensive chances was Wilton’s pitching duo, starter Grace Guglielmo and closer Gracie DiBuono-Krafick. Over three innings, Guglielmo and DiBuono-Krafick surrendered only two hits while striking out four (the two runs were unearned). Both pitchers held their own on offense, as well, with Guglielmo going 3-for-4 with two singles and a double and DiBuono-Krafick having a perfect night at the plate with two singles.
To a coach, a parent and a proponent of youth sports, what happened on the field today was far less important than what happened off the field. Yes, winning a tournament game is nice. It would be dishonest of me to say that I expected this team to have two wins after two games in their first tournament action. That is a credit not only to the effort that these girls have given over the past four weeks to prepare for this opportunity, but also to their focus–on the field and in the dugout–once the first pitch is thrown.
However, what has struck me the most has been the support that this team has received from the Wilton community. At Saturday’s game, the stands were filled not only with the family members of the players, but also with friends and teammates from the girls’ travel teams, including their respective parents; Mallory Rochefort, who coaches one of Wilton’s 12U travel softball teams (and who had to prepare for her own team’s game the same afternoon); Pam and Christa Nessel, former coaches of Wilton’s travel softball teams and two of the most instrumental figures in the development of Wilton’s current softball program; and John Morello, who, as the head of Wilton’s Little League softball program, deserves more credit than anybody for how far Wilton has come over the past five years as a softball town–as evidenced by our town fielding five travel softball teams and separate 10U, 11U and 12U Little League District softball teams in 2018.
I am sure that I am failing to mention others who were at the game Saturday, and for that I am sorry. I know as well as anybody else the value of unencumbered weekends, and for all of those folks to take the time out of their schedules to support these girls–heck, today was John Morello’s wedding anniversary!–speaks not only to their character as individuals, but also to how this community rallies around its youth, in the arts, academics, athletics and more. These young ladies will not forget your standing behind them during this exciting period in their lives.
The tournament continues on Sunday at 12 p.m. at Unity Park in Trumbull. Wilton (2-0) faces Fairfield (2-0).