Playing in their first game of the post-season, the 11U softball District 1 representatives from Wilton opened their Connecticut State Little League Tournament with a walk-off win against the District 5 champions from Berlin. Wilton trailed by scores of 1-0 and 2-1 through the first four innings, but they never let the game get out of reach. Grace Guglielmo, who earned Player-of-the-Game honors, pitched four gutsy innings, giving up only two runs and striking out five batters. In the third inning, Grace escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam by striking out two consecutive batters before retiring the final out on a soft pop fly.

Wilton’s defense was also sharp throughout the evening. Star shortstop Allie Schwartz, who was 2-for-3 at the plate, recorded three assists, and second baseman Eva Filipponi, who was 1-for-2 at the plate, recorded an assist as well. However, the defensive play of the game–the game-saving play–was made by third baseman Teagan Stengrim, who, with the bases loaded, turned a scorching line drive into an unassisted double play.

As the game moved into the last two innings, the Wilton girls showed the tenacity and grit that has been their trademark throughout the 2018 Little League season. Down 2-1 in the fifth inning, after Allie Schwartz reached with her second single of the game and center fielder Abby Seeberger, who was 1-for-2 at the plate, reached on a defensive error, first baseman Abby Schwartz lined a one-out single into center fielder, plating two and giving Wilton its first lead of the game.

In the top of the sixth inning, Berlin–who played tough all evening–was able to put together a two-out rally against relief pitcher Gracie DiBuono-Krafick, who pitched two solid innings, and tie the game at 3-3. Gracie remained focused and kept the score even by coaxing a soft ground ball to third base to end the inning and set up the thrilling finale.

Leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, Stengrim reached on a misplayed play by Berlin’s shortstop and then reached third base on a picture-perfect bunt single by DiBuono-Krafick. With runners on first and third, no outs, lead-off hitter and left fielder Lauren Sanfilippo quickly fell behind in the count, 1 ball and 2 strikes. Then the real battle began. Foul ball #1. Foul ball #2. Staying alive. Extended family in the stands watching. Two strikeouts earlier in the game, sandwiching a single. Eleven teammates in a frenzy, as they had been from the first pitch of the game. Euphoria. A line-drive single to left field. Wilton 4, Berlin 3.

Every player on the team contributed. Catcher Katie Kelly was one-for-three at the plate and was an absolute brick wall behind it, calling an excellent game and keeping Berlin’s baserunners in check. Starting right fielder Mallory Tomasulo had a hard ground out in the first inning, and her back-up, Poppy Herve advanced a runner in the third inning with similar hard ground ball. Back-up second baseman Lucie Prior reached on an error and nearly scored the go-ahead run fourth inning before being caught in a run-down between third base and home plate.

But the memory that I am going to take away from this game–as the team’s manager and as the third base coach when her hit left the infield–is the smile that Sanfilippo allowed herself to crack as she left the field, mobbed by her ecstatic teammates. This game–this evening–was youth sports at its very best. The girls take the field for game two this Saturday, July 14, versus East Hartford. Wilton will be ready.

video:  George Krafick