WATERBURY — The Connecticut Hurricanes, a team of 15- and 16-year-olds including players from Beacon Falls, Prospect, and Naugatuck, reached the final of this week’s Mickey Mantle state tournament before falling to Overlook of Waterbury, 6-5, in the championship.
The team, coached by Woodland head coach Mike Kingsley, Cody Kingsley, and Wolcott’s Ron Gambino and Scott Rossignol, won its first four games of the double-elimination tournament starting last Thursday in Waterbury.
The Hurricanes beat the Hit Club, 7-0, on Thursday and followed with a 3-0 win over Clinton on Friday. They won a pair of close games over Town Plot (6-5) and the Stamford Thunder (7-3) on Saturday before losing to Overlook, 4-3, in a two-day suspended game that finished Monday.
Despite the loss, the Hurricanes reached the state championship Tuesday night against Overlook with the winner advancing to this weekend’s North Atlantic regional tournament in Waterbury.
In a game which was about as back and forth as a championship game could get, Overlook scored two runs in the top of the seventh and held on for a 6-5 win.
Beacon Falls’ Tanner Kingsley, who stopped an Overlook rally in the sixth, issued a pair of controversial walks to start the seventh before allowing a pair of RBI singles that gave Overlook the lead.
The Hurricanes couldn’t rally in the bottom of the seventh, stranding the tying run on first base.
After falling behind, 3-0, after the third inning, the Hurricanes rallied to take a pair of leads in the middle of the game.
In the fourth, the team put together a four-run rally that all began with two outs. A pair of Naugatuck residents, Adam Tavares and Josh Aviles, both reached base and scored when Jason Matos’ single was misplayed in left field to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Following a walk by Prospect’s Steve Baeder, Vincent Gambino knocked an RBI single to plate Matos and tie the game.
Beacon Falls’ Dave Uhl gave the Hurricanes a 4-3 lead with a bloop single to left, plating Baeder and giving pitcher Sam Rubenstein a lead with which to work.
But Overlook tied the game in the fifth on a walk and two errors, both of which plagued the Hurricanes all game. The team managed to salvage a tie by gunning a runner at home thanks to a perfect relay by Kingsley, Baeder, and catcher Neil Ring.
The Hurricanes rallied to reclaim the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Baeder crushed a one-out triple to the left-field wall and scored on Gambino’s line-drive single through a drawn-in infield. That gave the team a 5-4 lead which fell in the seventh.
Other locals on the Hurricanes’ roster included Naugatuck’s Ricky Plasky, Beacon Falls’ Mike Gondola, and Prospect’s Mike Kenney, who couldn’t play due to an injury.
The Hurricanes, which played out of Thomaston’s Hit Club over the last two years, were looking for their third consecutive state championship.