Cranston Western Little League won the 8-10 year-old New England Championship on Friday night, beating Connecticut’s Fairfield American 3-1 in eight innings at the Chafee Sports & Recreation Complex.
Following CWLL’s first-ever 10U regional crown, and CWLL manager James Sweeney was ecstatic as his team prepared to face Hillsdale, New Jersey the very next morning in the Eastern Region Championship.
“It’s the New England champion against the Mid-Atlantic champion and the winner is the ‘technical’ Eastern Region champion,” Sweeney said. “But if we were 12 years-old, we’d be going to Williamsport right now. So that’s the thing. This was the big one. This was the one to get. No doubt about it.”
It was a late Friday night for Sweeney and CWLL because that New England Championship game, which began at 7:30 p.m., endured two delays, totaling an hour, the first because of rain, and the second because of thunder and lightning. Therefore the game did not conclude until 10:30 p.m.
And on Saturday morning, the CWLL bats looked flat as they were blanked by New Jersey 3-0, but Sweeney would not make excuses, especially against a Hillsdale squad that ran just nine players deep.
“I think the only thing that affected us was an outstanding Jersey team,” Sweeney said. “New Jersey is extremely well-coached. They are very talented, and at the end of the day, they earned it. They were the better team. They’re the Eastern Region Champion, but I am beyond proud of the effort that my team has given all week long.”
Jeremy Silverio, a two-time All-Star, got the start on the bump for CWLL in the Eastern Region Final and took the loss, pitching five innings and striking out three, while yielding two earned runs.
“Jeremy is as composed of a 9 year old as I’ve ever seen,” Sweeney said. “He just knows the game. He’s got it in his genes and he’s just as mentally tough as anybody. And I am so extremely proud and happy for him that he got to do exactly what he did today. He was outstanding. He gave us a chance to win.”
Max Stalb earned the win for Hillsdale, tossing five shutout innings and fanning six, while yielding just two hits, and then Sam Stalb closed the game with one hitless inning.
On offense, Max Stalb, added three hits, plus an RBI, and Justin Morgan, the left fielder, a hit and two RBI.
David Cavallaro and Shane Gaudreau earned the lone two hits off of Max Stalb.
On Friday night, during the New England title game, CWLL earned the victory after Gaudreau belted a two-run double to left field during the top of the eighth inning, giving CWLL a 3-1 win and eliminating Connecticut.
“I just wanted to get a hit, just to drive in a run,” Gaudreau said.
And Sweeney had all the confidence in the world that Gaudreau would do just that.
“There was no doubt in my mind that Shane was going to come in and produce because that’s what Shane does,” Sweeney said. “The kid is clutch and he’s just amazing. And I’m so proud of him and happy for him.”
The first baseman went 2-for-4 with two runs batted in, while his teammate, second baseman, Matt Gomez added two hits, plus an RBI, and Nico Testa, a hit and a run scored.
On the other side, Dylan Davis, Fairfield’s catcher had two hits.
Robert Rowley threw 5 1/3 innings for Connecticut and struck out four with a walk, while yielding one earned run, and then Cole Stotler pitched 2 2/3 frames, giving up a run, with three strikeouts, plus a walk.
Gaudreau was thrilled with winning the New England title after not even winning the states last year.
“It feels good,” Gaudreau said. “I was just very mad last year when we lost in the state championship and now we’re the New England champs.”
David Cavallaro started for CWLL against Fairfield and tossed four innings and struck out seven, with one walk and an unearned run, and then D’Ambra pitched four shutout innings in relief and fanned one and gave up just two hits while pitching to contact.
“It was a team effort,” D’Ambra said. “I just closed. Everyone, they hit balls off of me, but my teammates made plays and that’s how we won.”
And now D’Ambra is basking in the glory of being a New England champ.
“We just combined all of our efforts, and we cheered for everyone,” D’Ambra said. “And I feel very happy about winning the title because it’s the first time in this little league that we’ve won the 10’s regionals so, it’s really special.”
It would take twice as long for Sweeney to get the win because of the delay, but it was well worth it.
“It was the craziest sequence of events I’ve ever been a part of when it comes to sports,” Sweeney said. “It was by far the greatest environment I’ve ever seen. And I cannot say how proud I am of them for battling through stuff that we can’t control. But it’s an amazing feeling and words cannot describe how amazing it is.”
CWLL went 5-1 throughout the tourney, including both championship games, and helping Sweeney coach the team throughout the historic run were Anthony Simeone and Matt Pimental.