Rallies help Ridgefield team win LaMotta tourney

After elimination in the playoff round of the District 1 tournament, Ridgefield Little League’s 11U All-Star team found itself trailing early and often during the LaMotta Tournament in Stamford.

However, early-game deficits were merely hurdles to overcome, as Ridgefield battled for five comeback victories, including a wild series of playoff wins that culminated in a championship.

The theme of the tournament was established during Ridgefield’s first pool-play game against Norwalk, which grabbed a quick 1-0 lead as its first four batters reached safely. But additional damage was prevented thanks in large part to Ian Brown throwing a seed to home on a single to right and catcher John Michael Macko holding tough during a collision at the plate to record an out.

Ridgefield immediately answered in the bottom of the frame, as Nicholas Svendsen doubled and Ben D’Antonio walked, with both runners executing a delayed steal prior to Brown’s two-run single.

The rest of the game belonged to Ridgefield, with pitchers D’Antonio and Andrew Volgende buoyed by the infield of Svendsen, Mason Smith, Matthew Ciminiello, and Jacob Voellmicke, which had a hand in all but four outs without committing an error. D’Antonio ripped an RBI double in the second inning, while Voellmicke’s two-run single in the fourth capped a four-run rally that accounted for the game’s final score, 7-1.

Facing a Stamford American team that it had beaten 3-0 during the district tournament, Ridgefield quickly saw the tables turn in the rematch as the hosts hung a four-spot in the top of the first inning en route to an 11-2 triumph.

Two days later, Ridgefield found itself on the road and trailing Wilton, 5-0. Lucas Carfi’s bases-loaded walk got Ridgefield on the board in the top of the fourth and set the stage for a six-run rally capped by a two-run single by Voellmicke.

Wilton posted single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to regain the lead before allowing Cormac Bellotti (who was stellar in relief) to reach via error to begin the sixth. Bellotti’s hustle allowed him to beat a throw to second on a fielder’s choice, and after he took third via a wild pitch, Bellotti’s daring baserunning culminated in a gutsy, game-tying, delayed steal of home with Ridgefield down to its final strike.

But Wilton answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth to pull out the 4-3 triumph.

Needing a victory to garner a favored seed in the opening round of the playoffs, Ridgefield headed to Weston for the second time this summer and beat the hosts, 8-5. Macko’s two-run highlighted a five-run fifth inning for Ridgefield.

The win over Weston secured the third seed for Ridgefield and a playoff-round opener against Norwalk, which needed just six batters to register two runs in the top of the first inning.

Despite a solo homer by Svendsen, Ridgefield found itself trailing 4-1 after the top of the fifth — mostly due to stranding nine runners on base over the game’s first four innings.

That all changed in the bottom of the fifth, as Ridgefield put together a seven-run explosion. After D’Antonio and Bellotti reached to open the inning, Brown with an RBI double and Volgende followed with an RBI single.

Macko walked to load the bases with one out and Liam Shea patiently worked out a walk to force in a run and tie the game. Milo Rosenzweig then laced a liner past the drawn-in third baseman to put Ridgefield on top. After Ciminiello walked to force in another run, D’Antonio followed with a two-run double that ended the scoring in Ridgefield’s 7-4 victory.

In the semifinals, Ridgefield rallied to beat Stamford American, 13-10.

After the clubs traded slim leads early, Ridgefield edged back in front 5-4 in the top of the fourth courtesy of de facto squeeze bunts by Shea and Nicholas D’Orso. Errors plagued Ridgefield in the bottom of the inning, leading to a quartet of unearned runs and an 8-5 deficit, yet a relay from Brown to Svendsen to Ciminiello cut down a runner to prevent an additional run.

That play seemed to galvanize Ridgefield’s bats, which provided a massive fifth-inning outburst for the second straight contest. Brown ripped a two-run double; Palmer followed with a go-ahead two-run single; and Volgende crushed an RBI double to the wall in center.

Shea and D’Orso later reached to reload the bases, setting up a two-run double by Ciminiello and an RBI groundout by Svendsen that rounded out the eight-run explosion.

Weston’s upset of Wilton in the semifinal round not only set up a third meeting between the clubs, but also gave Ridgefield the opportunity to be the home team — a distinction that would prove crucial.

Svendsen’s solo homer got Ridgefield on the board in the bottom of the first, with the home team tying the score at 3-3 in the second thanks to an errant pickoff throw that allowed both D’Orso and Macko to score.

With the teams later knotted at 4-4, Weston scored two runs in the top of the seventh to go ahead, 6-4.

In the bottom of the inning, Smith’s rocket right at the shortstop fortuitously popped out of his mitt and Ciminiello added a double to the left-field wall. Svendsen followed by doing what he had done all summer, as his single through the box tied the game and his alert baserunning put the potential winning run in scoring position.

After D’Antonio walked and Bellotti flew out to center, both runners advanced via wild pitch, setting the stage for Brown to crush a ball into the right-center gap to secure the 7-6 victory and tournament title.

Notes: Ridgefield finished the season with a 7-5 overall record and was the second straight team from Ridgefield to capture the LaMotta 11U title.