WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Wildcats made a fantastic run in pursuit of a position in the District 13 Major (12s) Little League Baseball tourney semifinals, but their hopes came to an end with Monday night’s 9-4 loss to Reading at Rotary Park.
The Rockets finished undefeated (5-0) in round robin play and they advanced along with Woburn (4-1) in Pool B. They played Pool A champion Weston and Lincoln-Sudbury in the semifinals, Wednesday night.
Wilmington (3-2) lost to the Tanners in the first game of the round robin play, but then reeled off three wins in a row to take a ton of momentum into Monday night’s action.
The Rockets were able to build up a 9-2 lead by the fifth inning before the Wildcats got a couple late runs for the 9-4 final.
Wilmington had high hopes after playing impressively in its three-game winning streak after only losing to Woburn by one run, 3-2.
The streak began with an 10-1 triumph over Stoneham in a makeup game at McCarthy Field.
It was a close game for awhile before the Wildcats broke it open with three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth to take a 9-0 lead. Cameron Kelley was outstanding on the hill for Wilmington, striking out 15 while pitching a complete game victory. The Spartans spoiled Kelley’s shutout bid in the bottom of the sixth inning with the help of their only hit of the game.
“We left a lot of runners on early but we made good contact,” said Wildcats’ coach Jay Kelley. “We were able to jump on them at the end of the game.”
The Wildcats took an initial 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Lucas Gabardi got things started with a single, and he was followed in getting on base by Joe Gronemeyer and Brendan Walsh. Gabardi and Gronemeyer eventually scored as Wilmington sent eight batters to the plate.
Hitting stars for the Wildcats include Kelley, who helped his own cause with two home runs. The first was a solo shot in the fourth and the second a grand slam in the fourth for a total of five runs batted in.
Ayden Balter and Mick Krogen also contributed with two hits each.
The Wildcats were right back at it the next night when they hosted Wakefield National in the first of three consecutive games at Rotary Park. Lukas Poirier and Shane Maguire split the pitching duties, going three innings each and combining for nine strikeouts.
Wilmington scored once in the first and three times in the third to take a 4-0 lead.
Poirier singled leading off the game and scored the initial run. He singled and scored again in the third along with Cameron Kelley and Ayden Balter.
The Nationals scored their lone run in the bottom of the third when Trevor Veilleux scored on a single by John Fitzgerald. Wakefield threatened to score more but the Wildcats and Poirier got out of trouble with a 5-3-2 double play.
“We were very solid defensively, and both pitchers pitched well and stayed within the pitch limits,” said manager Jay Kelley. “It was a really good game.”
Cameron Kelley had two more home runs to lead the Wilmington offense, while Lukas Poirier had three hits and three runs. Kelley and Ayden Balter went back-to-back with home runs in the four-run fourth.
The second postponement of the round robin phase occurred on Saturday, but it did nothing to slow down Wilmington on Sunday against North Reading.
The Wildcats got yet another great pitching effort, this one from Ayden Balter, who went five innings before the Green Hornets got to him for a couple of unearned runs to make the game interesting, 4-2, entering the sixth.
Wilmington scored four times in the top of the sixth to provide a big enough cushion for its third straight win. Cameron Kelley then pitched the sixth to close out the 8-2 win.
The Wildcat offense did not get going until the third when Ryan Quamme got on with a bunt, and he scored on a two-run home run by Ayden Balter, and then Shane Maguire hit a home run.
Quamme later got an RBI with a single that scored William Trach to make it a 4-0 game, which is where it stayed until the fifth.
The two Spartan runs in the bottom of the fifth were keyed off of one hit, a single off the fists that blooped into the outfield for two runs.
Still up 4-2 in the fifth, Kelley hit a three-run home run to spark the Wildcats in their four-run sixth. The inning began with Trevor Sullivan getting hit by a pitch. Quamme and Poirier singled to score Sullivan before Kelley hit his fifth home run in three games.
“Our team is getting better and better each game,” said manager Jay Kelley, after Sunday’s win and before Monday’s game. “We are just as good as Woburn and Reading. We are right there with them.”
Gavin Russell and Zach Mackiel also contributed to Wilmington’s success during the three-game winning streak.