WATERBURY — Around this time of year, I like to travel around the area in the evening and try to catch a baseball game or two. I work my way up and down the Valley to watch Tri-State, American Legion and the occasional youth game. Last weekend, I made my way to Municipal Stadium and saw one of the most impressive hitting displays I’ve witnessed in a while.
The show wasn’t put on by minor leaguers or high school standouts—it was the work of a group of 13-year-olds from Thomaston’s The Hit Club, a team that features five players from Beacon Falls and Naugatuck.
The Hit Club pounded on a squad of 14-year-olds from Southington, winning, 14-0, in a mercy-rule-shortened, four-and-a-half-inning game. But the score, rather typical for the youngsters, wasn’t the most impressive part of the victory—that honor belongs to their remarkable, 29-1 record.
The team, sponsored by The Hit Club and coached by Mike Kingsley, among others, fields an incredible lineup and dominant pitching staff, both of which were on display last Friday.
Three boys from Beacon Falls—Tanner Kingsley, Brian Zaccagnini, and Josh Collet—and two from Naugatuck—Ricky Plasky and Adam Tavares—start on the 12-man roster, which has breezed through the Waterbury Koufax League and amassed a 16-0 record in three AAU tournaments.
Prior to this season, these five players were on local teams, but with their graduation from the 12-year-old division, Mike Kingsley saw the chance to put together one heck of a squad.
“Me and Ron Gambino, a coach from Wolcott, had been looking to start a competitive team for a few years,” Kingsley said. “We hooked up with The Hit Club and finally did it.”
In addition to the five local guys, the lineup includes three players from Southbury, three from Wolcott and one from New Milford. With a small roster, every player has the chance to contribute to wins, Kingsley said.
“Tanner’s hitting over .600,” Kingsley said. “Brian is hitting unbelievably and Adam has unbelievable power. Ricky has been outstanding defensively at second base, and Josh has filled in nicely defensively for us.”
The combination of offense, defense, and pitching—nine of the 12 players have picked up a win on the mound—has made The Hit Club a force in tournament play. The team won a tournament on Memorial Day weekend, another at Central Connecticut State University last month and the War at the Shore two weeks ago.
Tanner Kingsley said this team is different than any he’s played on before.
“I don’t get nervous with this team when the other team hits the ball when I’m pitching,” he said.
He also doesn’t much mind the fact that his team has won 29 of its first 30 games.
“Everybody wants us. And we play them and then you see what happens,” he said with a grin.
With just a few games left in the regular season, The Hit Club is preparing to play in the 13-year-old Koufax state tournament July 15-18 in Waterbury. For both Kingsleys, playing in the state tourney is old hat; winning it is something they haven’t yet been able to do.
“We just have to do what we’ve been doing the whole season,” Tanner Kingsley said. “Now we’ve got tournament experience.”
“The goal is try to advance through the tournament,” Mike Kingsley added. “I’m gonna give you the traditional, ‘We play one game at a time,’ speech.”
If the team wins the state title—which they are favored to do—it might not be the last time we see these guys winning championships on local fields.
I chatted with former Woodland all-Naugatuck Valley League and all-state player Shane Kingsley at the game. With the five local players plus three from Wolcott, he made an interesting point.
“It’s like watching the [future] all-NVL team,” he said.
I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if his prediction turns out to be right.