BERLIN - The season for Berlin 10U Little League all-stars came to a close Tuesday with a 5-1 loss to Southington South in the District 5 championship. But for first baseman Ryan Lavender, his time on the field ended almost two weeks ago.
Lavender has been out since the final game of pool play against Farmington on July 1 after a collision with a runner at first base forced him to the ground and landing on his right wrist, causing it to fracture.
“I was just trying to field a grounder and touch the base and didn’t see the runner,” Lavender said of the play. “I hit the ground and that was it.”
Berlin head coach Matt Catalano admitted not having Lavender in the lineup has been one of the team’s biggest obstacles down the stretch.
“Ryan was a key member to the team all season long,” Catalano said. “It has definitely been a tough loss not having him on the field with the rest of the guys.”
Lavender admitted “it stinks” to have been out, but he still never left his teammates’ sides throughout the District 5 tournament, even showing up to the games in uniform.
“Even though I can’t play, I still wanted to be here for my team,” Lavender said.
Lavender absence on the field was evident early on. Berlin lost the first game of tournament play 18-7 to Yalesville and drop to the loser’s bracket. But Berlin clawed its way back, winning three straight, including a revenge-win over Yalesville to force the deciding game against Southington South.
Catalano believed the team had been able to remain upbeat because of Lavender’s presence in the dugout, despite the injury.
“Ryan is one of our leaders of this team, even though he’s wasn’t playing,” Catalano said. “He kept all the kids going on the bench. He keeps them motivated. So we might have lost him in the field, but we definitely didn’t lose him as a team member. It means a lot to us as coaches that he [was] still here. And I know it means a lot to the players as well.”
But Lavender could only do so much from the dugout. With the team losing against Southington South, there was an air of disappointment surrounding the team, knowing it came up short of its ultimate goal. But Catalano is hoping his players don’t dwell on the loss and can get excited for next season.
“Obviously it’s disappointing when you lose, but I see it as motivation for next year,” Catalano said. “We will have a full squad next year, with Ryan, so we will look to get it back.”
Lavender agreed with Catalano’s sentiment and said he just wants to get back on the field again.
“I’m ready to go,” Lavender said.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org