BERLIN - When the final out was made Tuesday, it was not the ending the Berlin 12U Little League all-stars had envisioned and as the team went to shake hands with Yalesville, there some mixed emotions.
The 2-0 loss to Yalesville eliminated the team from the District 5 tournament, but with time to reflect, Berlin’s season ended up being much more than wins or losses. It acted as a bonding experience for the players.
“These guys, we practiced every night as a team, then we run, then we eat dinner and then they hang out and we make them go home when it's pitch black,” DeGroff said. “They just didn’t want to leave [each other].”
During games, the team rallied around the verbal support of Ryan Catalano and pitching prowess of Toby Lavender. Catalano was characterized by his teammates as having “high energy” and his energetic chants from the bench carried over into his ability to attack balls at the plate.
Catalano capped off Berlin’s run by collecting a single, double and triple during the tournament. He acted as the driving force behind the team's offensive ability, plating two of the three runs Berlin scored across two games. His actions demonstrated his ability to act as a leader among the group of 12 year olds.
Lavender, on the other hand, kept Berlin in the game against Yalesville. He pitched a complete game with his only issues coming in the fourth inning where a pair of hits, a walk and a wild pitch allowed the other team to finally put runs on the board. Despite his one rough inning, Lavender recovered and struck out the side looking in the fifth.
Lavender also credited his catcher, Lorenzo Miele, with helping him through the outing.
“He knocked a lot down,” Lavender said. “He kinda saved me a few times.”
And as the final Berlin player and coach walked out of the dugout, DeGroff perhaps but it best. His team never quit.
“It was great to get to this level. I’m very emotionally drained for the kids,” DeGroff said. “[I] almost lost it in the dugout. You see them go from little boys to men. They are a good group of kids.”