Local team captures invitational title

Suzanne Himmelberg Charles

The Junior Swamp Bats 16U team flashes its winning hardware Sunday. The players shown are, kneeling from left: Aaron Kent, Zinabu McNeice, Tucker Brown and Liam Conley; and standing from left: Jaden Phillips, Nate Gagnon, Alex Charles, Carl Hoden, Connor Branon, Huxley Holcombe and Coach John Luopa.

The Junior Swamp Bats 16U team capped off its season by beating the Connecticut Blue Jays Showcase team, 10-9, Sunday in the championship game of the Next Step Invitational in Lebanon, Conn.

It marked the third time this summer that the team reached the championship game of a tournament and its first time to win a title. It didn’t come easily.

After winning a pair of games Saturday — 11-1 over the Connecticut Blue Jays Scout team and 10-6 over the Connecticut Crush — the team reeled off three wins on Sunday (2-0 over the Crush, 10-6 over the Connecticut Edge and 10-9 over Connecticut Blue Jays Showcase).

After Huxley Holcombe and Alex Charles combined on a four-hit shutout in Sunday’s first game, the local entry needed its bats to carry the rest of the day. The Junior Bats gave up five runs in the top of the first inning against both the Edge and Blue Jays before rallying.

The Junior Bats played the weekend with 10 players, but they banged out 19 hits over those final two games. Holcombe was 4-for-5 with four runs driven in, while Tucker Brown was 4-for-6 with three RBI and Charles was 3-for-6. Liam Conley, Aaron Kent, Connor Branon, Carl Hoden, Jaden Phillips, Nate Gagnon and Zinabu McNeice all had hits.

Charles closed out four games, including the final inning in the championship game. He was one of five pitchers the team’s coach, John Luopa, used in the game.