STAMFORD, Conn. — The Greater Keene 13 and under Babe Ruth baseball team didn’t get the storybook finish it was looking for at the New England Regional tournament.
Keene lost to Pittsfield (Mass.) in the finals Thursday at Cubeta Stadium, 7-1.
Keene’s offensive output tied its worst game of the tourney, a six-inning 11-1 loss to Pittsfield in division play on Saturday. For the second time, the Keene hitters couldn’t find an answer against Pittsfield pitcher Christian Salzarulo.
Salzarulo threw a complete game, holding Keene to four hits. He had only two strikeouts, but stayed on top of Keene’s hitters throughout the contest with 17 first-pitch strikes.
“He mixed up his pitches well; he started off with a lot of first-pitch strikes,” Keene manager Kevin Dean said. “Our kids hit them well; we just hit them to their players, and they made their defensive plays when they had to.
“Throughout the game, we just couldn’t really establish any rallies and we just couldn’t push any runs through.”
Keene’s lone run came in the fourth inning, when Otto McLaughlin reached on an infield single on a hit-and-run play that allowed Jack Riendeau to score from second.
On the other side of the ball, Keene got three innings from pitcher Mitch Cormier, two from Brock Haynes and one from Riendeau. Haynes tallied a game-high four strikeouts.
But while the pitchers kept the game from ending in another mercy-rule loss, they couldn’t hold off the Pittsfield attack. Pittsfield scored one run in the second, two in the third, three in the fourth and one more in the fifth, recording 10 hits and taking advantage of a three-error day for Keene.
“They put the ball in play and put the pressure on us,” Dean said. “When you get down to these championship games, you’ve got to make your plays. The team that comes out with more errors is not going to win often, so you’ve got to play solid defense.”
Though the ending wasn’t what the team wanted, it was another feather in the cap for this team to finish as the runner-up.
The group won its first state championship earlier this month, and a number of players on the roster were also part of the Cal Ripken 12 and under/70-feet state championship squad last year.
The last time a Keene 13U team made it to the regional finals was two years ago, with that squad winning it and then reaching the World Series semifinals. That group would go on to reach the New England finals three straight years – finishing as the 14U runner-up last year and the 15U runner-up this year – so this could be a promising start for this year’s 13U squad.
“It’s up to them. The sky’s the limit,” Dean said. “Before we left the field, I got them together and thanked them all and told them to keep challenging themselves. We’ve got to come back here, and now that we know and have experienced it for the first time, we know what to expect next time.”