Tolland edges Edgewood for state Little League title

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Sun., Aug. 5, 2012
Game 2 starting pitcher Thomas Slane hurls a fastball with an Edgewood runner on first.
Game 2 starting pitcher Thomas Slane hurls a fastball with an Edgewood runner on first.

Coach Steve Paasch had said after his Tolland Little League 13-14 All-Star team dropped the second game of the three-game series vs. Edgewood (New Haven) that just being in the state finals at all was a win for his team. Now, they are heading to New Jersey to represent Connecticut in the Eastern Regionals, after closing out the series with a 9-8 win on Aug. 1.

“We wanted to repeat as district champions, and get another shot at sectionals,” Paasch said. “They've passed my expectations. If someone had said at the beginning of the All-Star season, that we'd be facing a one-game playoff to win the state championship, we'd have said, 'You must be kidding.'”

The state finals was ultimately decided by just that one run, as the teams had traded 6-5 victories the previous two nights.

“We're going to have to hit the ball and score some runs,” Paasch said before heading into the rubber match. That seemed to work, as the score would indicate.

Edgewood got five runs in the top of the third inning of the deciding game, and Tolland got back one of those in the bottom of the inning. Tolland came back the next inning with five runs to take the lead, but Edgewood added three in the fifth to go up 8-6, then Tolland pushed across another in the sixth to narrow the gap to one. In the seventh and final inning, Tolland got a bases-loaded hit to tie the game and then a sacrifice fly scored the walk-off winning run.

“It was definitely a back-and-forth, very competitive game,” Paasch said, giving a lot of credit to Edgewood. “They're a pesky team that doesn't go away. They don't hit a lot of deep shots, but they're very fundamentally sound.”

Paasch said his team is “elated,” and that after maintaining their composure and quiet, business-like demeanor after each playoff game, win or lose, the comeback finals win caused them to be far more expressive. “It was like we had won the World Series,” he said. “There was jumping around, high-fives... it was great.”

At press time, the team was preparing to face its first Eastern Regional opponent - Chesapeake City, Maryland - on Aug. 4, and Paasch said anything can happen, and his team has gained a lot of experience in its long haul to tops in Connecticut.

“My expectation is that the level of play is going to be significantly higher,” he said. “We're going to have to play our best baseball to be competitive. What's interesting is that it looks like some teams have only played six games to get to their state championship, while we've played 16.”

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