Westport Little League 12s savor their run

The Westport Little League U-12 All-Star team finished district play at 4-4. Team members, front row, from left, are, Bryan Penwell, Elliott Poulley, Jonathan DeDomenico, Tyler Wincig and Max Richlin. Back row, coach Tom Whelan, Michael Cusa, Ray Niver, Justin Seideman, Ryan Fitton, Mack Muller, Julian Ross and coach Jake Scott.
The Westport Little League U-12 All-Star team finished district play at 4-4. Team members, front row, from left, are, Bryan Penwell, Elliott Poulley, Jonathan DeDomenico, Tyler Wincig and Max Richlin. Back row, coach Tom Whelan, Michael Cusa, Ray Niver, Justin Seideman, Ryan Fitton, Mack Muller, Julian Ross and coach Jake Scott.Contributed photo

The World Series is the ultimate goal for any baseball team.

Playing on a diamond so bright it needs to be dulled down with the infield dirt. This is likely the only time they would ever play on this stage, so they savor every moment of it.

That's the Little League World Series.

Westport's 12-year-old All-Stars went to work on a hope of a run to the Little League World Series starting in mid June. However, the opposition proved too difficult to overcome.

Westport was 3--2 in pool play, 4--4 overall. While those numbers aren't eyeball-popping, each of the team's losses came from the hands of a Fairfield team. Two losses from each Fairfield American and Fairfield National, the American team, of course, is the same group of gutty 12-year-olds that made a dream-like run to Williamsport, Pa. last year to represent New England in the Little League World Series.

"Everything's been said about last year's Fairfield team," Westport Head Coach Tom Whelan said. "The fundamentals that the Fairfield teams have, the hitters one to nine can all hit, they have good pitchers, and they're well coached. They'll represent Fairfield as well as they can and, you know, I don't want to make any predictions, but they should make a run."

Fairfield American won the District 2 final over Fairfield National, which, coincidentally, were the only two teams to defeat Westport.

The American team defeated East Haven 14-3 for the Section 1 title and will play Glastonbury American for the state title this weekend.

"From 1 to 12 we had great ballplayers, none of them ever missed a day of practice for the four weeks we were together. We stressed the hitting aspect of the game and they came up when we needed it. As far as pitching is concerned, Ryan Fenton, Max Richland and Max Muhler, they pretty much did what they had to do," Whelan said.

On offense, Westport was paced by Ryan Fitton, who was the team's No. 2 starter and most potent bat in the lineup. In the eight tournament games for Westport, Fitton was 11-22 with five home runs and a 1.273 slugging percentage. He also had the only hit in the team's first game against Fairfield American (a home run). Fitton was named to the All-Tournament team along with teammate Mack Muller, who hit two long-balls in the tournament and came a triple away from the cycle in their 14--0 trouncing of Stratford. Muller also hurled a two-hitter against The North End in Westport's 11--1 victory.

Max Richlin paced Westport's pitching staff. Richlin garnered a 3--1 record, his only loss coming to Fairfield American. In his three wins, Richlin gave up only eight hits and combined for 26 strikeouts. He was instrumental to Westport's success.

"Once they figured out that it's about a goal that we all had in mind, the ultimate being the Little League World Series, we just tried to get through pool play, then to the semifinals and the finals," Whelan said. "They all came together from a hitting standpoint, showed maturity in pitching, but we just came a little short."

Historically, Westport's district teams haven't been very competitive. That is because in the past, Westport fielded two district teams, an American and National team, and this year, the league brought only one team to district play. Whelan said this will lead to a more competitive team in the future, but his team's perseverance and recognition were the two key points to their success in this year's tournament.

"I'm really proud of them. They represented Westport real well in the tournament, they really stepped up and did what they had to do.With the amount of time we had together, the kids really made a good run of it," Whelan said.