Two years ago, teams from Connecticut and Virginia made it to the 10U Cal Ripken World Series Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
They met again in Branson, Missouri for a nail biter in the 12U Cal Ripken/Major 70 World Series group stage on Aug. 6.
Two years ago, Virginia won 4-3.
Virginia earned a 1-0 win in seven innings in the rematch, knocking Connecticut out of the running for a spot in bracket play.
“It was definitely a real intense game,” Connecticut manager Billy Lengyel said. “Losing 1-0 is nothing to be ashamed about. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a few big hits today.”
Pitching dominated the game on both sides. Virginia’s Taegan Logan pitched 6.1 innings and only allowed two hits and one walk. His closer Luke Franko came in for the remaining .2 innings and struck out one of the two batters he faced.
Connecticut brought in Sean Lengyel during the fifth inning. He pitched 1.2 innings and only allowed a hit Lee Sowers who got caught stealing second. Charlie LaFreniere started and closed the game for Connecticut. In his split 5.1 innings, LaFreniere had seven strikeouts.
LaFreniere also played right field in his time off the mound, making a diving catch to secure the player of the game award for Connecticut.
“I read that ball poorly … I took a long step and recovered, luckily, and that’s why I had to do make the play like that,” LaFreniere said.
LaFreniere’s work, however, wasn’t enough to make the difference. In the top of the seventh inning, Ryan Bland hit a home run to win the game.
“It was so electric because it was a tie game, extra innings,” Bland said. “I just knew he was going to put one over the plate, so I stuck my bat out there and it went really far.”
Bland’s go-ahead home run allowed Virginia to secure the top spot and their group and give Pacific Northwest the second slot in bracket play.
“We knew coming into it that Connecticut was a great team, so we just tried to tell our guys, ‘Hey, we’re in Game 2, just relax and play our kind of ball,’ and they did just such an amazing job,” Virginia manager Rebecca Slough said.
Virginia will continue in bracket play at 10 p.m. against Alabama on Aug. 9. Connecticut will continue play in the Iron Bracket.
“We approach every game pretty much the same way: We look to win one inning at a time, and in a baseball game you should almost always end up on top,” Lengyel said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out our way this year and we won’t get too down, and we’ll just continue on. These kids got a lot of baseball ahead of them.”