NEWINGTON - When the Newington 12U Little League all-stars at home plate Wednesday night it came as no surprise Gaby Tirado was in the middle of the action.
Tirado had just hit a walk-off grand slam to give the team a dramatic 7-5 win over Mystic in the first game of the Section 3 Tournament and his second home run of the night.
“He sparks our team,” said Newington head coach Tom Tolisano of Tirado, who also drove in five of the team’s seven runs. “In practice, in a game, he’s our leader. He’s our catcher. He’s the fireplug. He’s our engine. He motivates our players. He really is the best around.”
Even at 12 years old, Tirado is more than comfortable with his role as the leader of the team. As a player who was a part of last year’s team, which reached the state tournament, he knows what it takes to make a push to reach the Eastern Regionals in Bristol.
“I’m always embracing the leadership role,” Tirado said. “Last year, we went to the state championships and ended up losing. But that didn’t bring me down. I said I was going to do this for our town and I was going to make something great happen for our town. I took this team and put them on my back. Now, we’re hoping we can go even further than we did last year.”
Both Tolisano and Tirado touched on the opportunity of playing for a Newington program that has grown used to success in recent years. This year’s District 7 championship marks Newington’s fourth in the last five years. The hope is to build off of that success and win the first state title in the town’s history.
“This town is a baseball town,” Tolisano said. “We have great athletes playing baseball. We saw last year’s team do what they did. We want to do the same thing, but even better. I think this year could be our year to get it done. We have a great team and a lot of heart, especially with a guy like [Tirado] with us.”
Tirado knows that playing in Newington there is an expectation to win. However, his focus is on keeping his mental approach the same as it always is.
“I’m always embracing the fact that I’m going to step up to the plate and I’m going to do what I do,” Tirado said. “No matter if there is one strike, two strikes or if it’s a 3-2 count, I’m at the plate the same way I always am.”
The team still has to secure the Section 3 title before it can move on to the state tournament. But with Tirado’s name in the lineup, Newington will be a tough team to beat for anyone in the state.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org