07/26/2021 04:00 EST
The Guilford 11-U All-Stars baseball team enjoyed one of its most successful seasons recently with Head Coach Ralph Russo this summer. Guilford won a District 9 championship and then claimed the Section 3 title on his way to making the state Final Four.
Guilford’s historic run began when the club won the District 9 tournament with an undefeated performance. Guilford started a draw by posting a 16-0 win over Westbrook in the opening match, led by a four-hit shutout from Nick Vigliotti. Will Eden had three hits to speed up the offense.
Two days later, Guilford recovered from a five-run deficit through four innings to claim a 6-5 victory over Madison and advance to the championship game. Then on July 14, Guilford met Madison again with the District 9 title on the line and won by a 9-2 score at Jaycee Field in Madison. Ben Mennone hit a triple to remove bases to help Guilford win and win the district crown.
Guilford’s performers are Ethan Aulenti, Cole Connellan, Miles Drake, Ethan Eagle, Will Eden, Eric Lowe, Nolan McGowan, Ben Mennone, Charlie Ogeneski, Ethan Russo and Nick Vigliotti. Coach Russo’s assistant coaches are Frank Mennone and Dan Vigliotti.
“We knew what it took to win from the very beginning. “We fought back from a 5-0 deficit against Madison, and it showed what these kids were capable of,” said Russo. “It was great to win the District 9 Championship and advance to the sections.”
After winning districts, Coach Russo’s squad moved on to the Section 3 Tournament held at Adams Middle School in Guilford. In their first match of the tournament, Guilford lifted an 18-0 victory against Waterford, when Eagle, Ogeneski and Mennone combined to strike out for the closure.
The next day, Guilford beat Wethersfield 6-5 to advance to the Section 3 title game. Eagle and Mennone had two hits each in the win.
Guilford met Waterford again in the championship on 19 July. With a place in the state’s Final Four on the field, Guilford came away with a 3-2 victory to pay tribute to the part 3 crown. Ethan Russo threw a complete game for Guilford in front of the hometown crowd.
“We had a huge amount of spectators in Adams, with Guilford Little League baseball and softball from past, present and future, all very well represented,” said Coach Russo. “The boys were extremely touched by the outpouring of love and support, and they were very inspired.”
Guilford continued to compete in the Willimantic State Tournament last week. Guilford lost 6-1 to Manchester in the opening match on 24 July.
Manchester scored two races in the first round, three races in the second, and a new race in the fourth to take a 6-0 lead. Guilford coated his lone game on an RBI single from Ogeneski in the fourth round. Guilford loaded the bases in the fifth, but failed to take advantage of the opportunity.
The next day, Guilford met Southington and needed a victory to keep his dream of winning a state title alive. In a dramatic competition, Guilford made a 4-3 decision against Southington in eight innings.
Eagle scored on an RBI double from Aulenti to give Guilford a 1-0 lead in the second half. Southington responded with three races in the bottom half of the frame to take a 3-1 lead. Ogeneski helped Guilford beat the Southington lead as he singled to score Vigliotti in the third half.
Until his last stroke, Guilford tied the match at 3-3 by scoring a race at the top of the sixth. The match eventually went to extra time, where Waterford won it by scoring a race at the bottom of the eighth.
Despite the loss, Coach Russo said the players had fun while attending a memorable playoff this year. Russo knows it was a great experience for Guilford’s athletes, and he feels proud of the way they performed.
“There are only a couple of teams that have ever played for the state championship. As far as I know, these were the teams that did the State Tournament in 2008 and 1978, so we are in very good company, “said Russo, who also coaches the Guilford High School boys’ ice hockey team. “I know these guys wanted to win the title, but they should be proud of how far they came as a ball club. They fought to the very last. ”
On the heels of such a successful season, Coach Russo believes that Guilford’s players will be ready to make some noise when they compete at 12-U level next summer.
“As long as they keep working hard, I know they can do it,” Russo said. “All the kids put everything on the field, and they will be motivated to come back next year and win some more.”