New Milford 12/70 Ripken squad heading to the World Series
It was a moment the New Milford 12/70 Ripken team will never forget.
The beautiful ping of Cole Dickinson's bat meeting the final pitch of the New England Regional tournament may in fact still be ringing in the ears of the New Milford Pride.
Dickinson's base hit scored Will Granata with the walk-off run of New Milford's 10-9 win over Hudson, Mass. and gave the Pride the championship, setting off a euphoric celebration.
“It was unbelievable,” Dickinson said. “It was a dream come true. It’s what we’ve been working for since we were 9. We all want that opportunity to get up. We live for the big moment. That’s what we work for.”
And here’s the kicker: Dickinson's title-winning knock may only be one chapter of an incredible book, as New Milford will now compete for the Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Md.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” New Milford’s Owen Hibbard said. “It was a dream come true since I was a little kid. It was pretty hype at that point (after the walk-off hit). I was so excited.”
The Pride enjoyed a fast-paced practice on a humid Wednesday night at the Gunnery School in Washington, participating in some rapid-fire defensive drills in preparation for their next tournament.
Gunnery has a turf field, as do the Ripken World Series diamonds.
“I think at this point we’re trying to work them hard for about an hour-and-a-half each night,” New Milford coach Bill Granata said. “Very focused and sharp practice because at this point now you’ve got to play your best to be successful.”
“It’s going to be a great experience to see all the cultures from around the world,” Dickinson said. “Just really fun. Defense is definitely our strong part. If we can hold teams to one or two runs we’ll definitely be good.”
Hibbard at shorstop has been a defensive standout for New Milford, turning in several strong plays during the regional tournament.
“(Stellato) is our first guy when we start a tournament,” Granata said. “He doesn’t have the power or the flash that Nicholas has, but he’s very consistent and very poised.
Tomasello was quick to point to New Milford’s strong defense as one of the biggest reasons for his success.
“We just come up clutch when we need it,” Tomasello said. “Our defense is really good. You don’t have to be nervous on the mound when you’re with these guys.”
After its opening game, New Milford clashes with Southwest on Sunday at 10 a.m., takes on Midwest Plains on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. and goes against Maryland on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
If New Milford finishes in the top two of its five-team pool, it will advance to the United States semifinals on Thursday. The eventual United States champion will close out the tournament by playing the international champion.
The teams that don’t win enough games in pool play will take part in the consolation tournament.
In any case, the Pride will play no fewer than five games and will have a chance to play as many as seven in nine days.
“I think that at this point the most important thing for us is making sure these guys enjoy it,” Granata said. “It’s such a great, great opportunity that very few kids get to do and after all these years it’s just a wonderful accomplishment. I think they’re going to have a great time.”
New Milford’s roster is comprised of Kai O’Dell, Miles Pokrinchak, Matthew Sheedy, Braydon Stellato, Nick Tomasello, Terrell Williams, Riley Corgan, Cole Dickinson, William Granata, Owen Hibbard, Justin Leclari and Michael Muller.
Bill Granata is the head coach and assistants are Rob Hibbard, John Stellato and Casey O’Dell.
“Our coach came up with this hastag thing, #whynotus, and we took that all the way through regionals and won it,” Hibbard said. “And we still believe we can win the whole thing.”
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