Montville LL keeps playing into autumn, takes Section 3 title
Montville — It's not the usual backdrop for Little League baseball, September fading into October, the leaves changing, weekend-only games to avoid playing on school nights.
But there's something about it that suits this Montville-New London team, which won again Sunday to capture the Connecticut Section 3 Little League (ages 11-12) all-star tournament and advance to the double-elimination state championship tournament beginning next weekend in Stamford.
"It's awesome," manager Orlando Gonzalez said. "I think it's a great time to play."
A team which relies on pitching and defense, Montville-New London relied on its pitching and defense to easily top Guilford 11-1 in five innings, going from melding the two leagues this summer with a lack of numbers due to COVID-19 to remaining unbeaten during the postseason.
Montville-New London scored two runs in the first inning and watched as starting pitcher Desmond Powers, with some help from the defense, buzzed through the first two innings while throwing only seven pitches each.
With Powers moving from his spot at third base to pitch, new third baseman Andrew McElwee was tested on the first play of the game and picked up a short hop on a line drive by Guilford's Logan Matlosz, throwing to first for the out. The second batter, Finn Matlosz, then drilled one to center field where Eric Richmond made a running catch.
"Anyone," said Powers, a seventh-grader at St. Joseph School in New London. "I'd be fine with anyone playing anywhere."
"Eric, he's phenomenal at tracking the ball," Gonzalez said. "Eric is a stud. ... We start every practice with infield and outfield, backing each other up. We're pitching- and defense-oriented."
Eddie Torres was 3-for-3 with a two-run home run in the first inning, a double and three RBI, while Jack Treat was 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI for Montville-New London, which will play Section 4 champion South Windsor in the opening game of the state final four at 2 p.m. Oct. 3 at Springdale Field in Stamford.
Torres came on to relieve Powers with the bases loaded and one out in the third and, after a run scored on a passed ball, Torres struck out the final two batters of the inning to preserve Montville-New London's 2-1 lead.
Treat, a lefty with what Gonzalez calls the best curveball on the team, came on to pitch the final two innings and didn't allow a hit, striking out four, walking two and hitting a batter. Treat loaded the bases on an error, hit batter and a walk with one out in the fifth, but capped the game with a pair of strikeouts.
The game ended on a mercy rule, with Montville-New London ahead by 10 runs or more after the fifth.
"I went out there to pull him the last time and he said, 'I got this, coach,'" Gonzalez said of Treat. "I got back to the dugout and the kids told me Jack just Matt Harvey-ed me (refering to Mets pitcher Matt Harvey once talking his way out of exiting a World Series game).
"That was phenomenal. He said, 'I got this coach.' And he came out on top. In the future, now he knows he can battle. You know, like life lessons. ... I have five good pitchers. I let them know (when I take them out). They know the succession, the plan."
Leading 2-1, Montville-New London connected for six runs in the fourth. Powers reached on an error, PJ Evans singled on a high chopper to the infield and Bradley Strickland drew a walk to load the bases. RJ Hartman walked to drive in Powers, Evans scored on a wild pitch and Seb Flores beat an infield single to score Strickland, making it 5-1.
With one out, Luis Anaya hit a two-run single to right, Treat reached on an infield single to third base and Torres drove in Anaya on yet another infield single.
Montville-New London added three in the fifth aided by a pair of Guilford errors and capped by an RBI double from Treat.
"It's very helpful knowing you already have the lead going out in the first inning," Powers, who was showered with the ice bucket by a few of his teammates following the game, said of taking the 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
"I think we struggled a little bit at the beginning," Gonzalez said. "The kids were out in front (at the plate). But I think we responded."
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