WILMINGTON — Despite an extended hiatus rendered by the ongoing pandemic, youth baseball was recently welcomed back to area diamonds.
The Lou Tompkins All-Star Baseball League (LTA), which is comprised of 48 northeastern Massachusetts teams, kicked off the 2020 summer campaign last week and the Wilmington U15 contingent was out of the gate quickly, winning two of their three outings.
Most recently, Wilmington hosted Watertown and came away with a decisive 10-4 win to improve to 3-1. Watertown, which was slow to get started due to inclement weather and last minute facility closures, evened at 1-1.
Wilmington starting pitcher Patrick Stokes proved to be the driving force behind the club’s success, scattering four hits in six innings worked. He had a sluggish start but outlasted the Watertown order, growing stronger as the game progressed. He was certainly in a position to go the distance but as coach James Hill explained, the LTA League has stringent pitch count requirements.
“In this league, the most pitches they’re allowed to throw is ninety-five,” said the first-year coach. “If he were to start a new batter before reaching that count, he could stay in. He had an awesome game. He just has fun out there and that’s what it comes down to.”
In Wilmington’s 6-2 defeat of Brookline in the season-opener last Tuesday, Hill described Stokes as “unhittable” through the first half of the contest, long enough for the Wildcats to get their bats going. Offensively, Shane Costello fueled the effort, scoring three runs on two hits with additional contributions from Burke Zimmer, Patrick Hounsell, and Mike Monteforte.
The Wildcats came home to Scanlon on Wednesday and suffered their first loss to Woburn in a rain-shortened five innings. At one point, Wilmington trailed 9-3 and scratched out four runs before heavy rain halted the rally.
A day later, Wilmington made amends for the unfinished business with the Tanners, taking out their collective frustrations on Natick. Early in the game, Wildcat hurler Matt Ardito was throwing a gem, “mowing down” the first eight batters he faced. But Natick chipped away, manufacturing a four-spot by the end of the third. But in the midst of a marathon fourth inning, Wilmington sent up 17 hitters and scored a dozen. Jacob Roque, Mike Maselli, Brett Gallucci, and Stokes each had a pair of hits in the outing. Every player in the lineup scored at least one run en route to an 18-6 drubbing of Natick and a 2-1 record.
With Watertown on Tuesday evening, the Wildcats led 2-1 after the first frame on runs from Jacob Doherty and leadoff batter Roque, who would have been out if not for a dropped fly ball in center. Watertown committed at least one error in each inning.
The visitors recaptured the lead, 3-2, on a pair of Wilmington throwing miscues but gave it up as the Wildcats capitalized on several consecutive walks and a wild pitch. Brett Ebert tied the game at three and then Roque put them in front, scoring on a booted grounder at short.
Watertown sat starter Jerry Zhy in favor of reliever Brendan Young. The Wildcats got to him without delay as Roque scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth and Hounsell made it 6-3 with aggressive baserunning in the fifth.
“We did a lot better today, swinging the bat,” said Hill, whose club has thus far outscored opponents 43-19. “It’s awesome when we get this many kids on base. With this league being the way it is, I’d rather see them swinging the bat to get on base than watch pitches coming in. We want to force the other team to make plays and capitalize when they don’t.”
The wheels came off Watertown’s game in the sixth. The Wildcats batted around the order, putting up a crooked number to jump ahead, 10-3.
While not flawless, the Wildcats were impressive defensively, turning a pair of double plays and throwing out two at the plate in late action behind Wilmington reliever John Velozo.
“With all the Covid stuff, kids haven’t been outside playing much ball,” said Hill, who will host North End Thursday evening. “We had a little time to prepare and it took a bit for the bats to get going but now we’re in a nice groove and winning games.”