Waterford – Waterford won the first inning.
After Waterford lost to Clinton in the round robin portion of the Connecticut Little League Section 3 baseball tournament at the age of 10 to 12 earlier this week, Waterford made it to the championship game, a rematch with Clinton, on Saturday.
Waterford’s defense cleared Clinton at the top of the first, then Waterford No. 3 hitter Colby Sheehan hit his first of two line-drive home runs in the game in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 lead.
Waterford won the first inning and that made the rest of the way easier.
The result was an 8-0 win at Waterford, which sent manager Josh Sheppard’s team to the State Final Four in Stamford on Wednesday. Waterford will face Section 4 Champion Manchester from 7.30 p.m.
“I told them that sometimes you can learn a lot when you lose,” Sheppard said, referring to Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Clinton. “We cannot fold.
“Losing to East Lyme (in the District 10 tournament that put Waterford on the losing side) was the biggest heartbreaking loss I’ve ever seen in a walk-off when we dominated. It was the same Situation. We have to come back and grind. We have to come back and work harder. I’ve had this group since they were 8 or 9 years old. I think I have to be saying something right.
“This Clinton ball club is a really good ball club.”
Not only did Sheehan go 3-for-3 with two homers and four RBIs, he also set up a 67-pitch shutout for an entire game. Since he was under 65, he was on his way to the final batter, which entitles him to pitch the Final Four opener on Wednesday.
“His role today was just dominant,” Sheppard said of Sheehan, who was in eighth grade at Clark Lane Middle School. “He took the wind out of their sails (with the home run in the first).”
The reason the first inning was so impressive: Sheehan, Waterford’s usual shortstop, was on the hill. Backup shortstop JT Sheppard broke his left arm at the beginning of the tournament and watched Saturday from the bench. All three balls hit by Clinton in the first inning then went to the shortstop, where Fill-in Dustin Powers devoured them.
“With that we can get our energy going,” Sheehan said of the first inning. “Our team is good.”
Sheehan finished on a three-hitter, hit six, and didn’t leave. Sheppard said Waterford led 10 Clinton hitters between three pitchers on Thursday.
Waterford led 1-0 on Saturday and put in five runs in the third inning, sending 10 men on the plate, ending with five hits, taking advantage of two Clinton mistakes and one wild pitch.
Luke Wilson led the inning with a deep single on the right field line and Carson Gallerani followed with a single in the middle, putting Sheehan back on the plate. Sheehan reached out and shot a second home run, this time over the midfield fence, scoring Wilson and Gallerani to give Waterford a 4-0 lead.
Brooks Lane isolated the middle and Jake Turner followed with an infield single to the pitcher, who then tossed the ball away and put the runners in second and third place. The choice of Lucas Racicot on second base scored pinch runner Kian Gordy, in for lane, and Turner scored on a wild pitch for a 6-0 lead.
Sheehan and Lane scored one in the fourth round, and Turner tore a double with two runs across the left field line to increase the lead to 8-0.
“They came to play offensively and defensively in the dugout,” Sheppard said of his team. “They give up their whole summer – I’m sure they’d want to go to Six Flags or something. But every single person plays a role. You’re up here (mentally) and physically in the game.”