All eyes were on the little left-hander in the middle of the field and Chase Jeter deserved the attention.
Working quickly and confidently, supported by a defense with the equal determination, Jeter shackled the Cal Ripken League 11-and-under state champions in dominating fashion.
Jeter tossed a three-hit shutout, the defense played mistake-free baseball and the offense generated threats in every inning Thursday night as the West Hartford Storm capped a satisfying season with a 6-0 victory over the Newtown Inferno in the championship game of the Ken Hungerford Tournament.
The Storm (32-3) won their third straight tournament. The Inferno, winners of the Ripken 46/60 state title, head to Marlborough, MA, on Saturday to play in the New England tournament.
The West Hartford Youth Baseball League opted out of the Ripken competition in the first year of its affiliation for unspecified reasons. The Ripken League has two divisions based on the distance from home to the pitching rubber and between bases. The 50/70 division has its regional championships in New Milford.
Jeter controlled the Newtown hitters, striking out six and walking none. He retired the first 11 hitters of the game before yielding successive singles to Joe Palanzo and Peter DeBona with two out in the fourth inning. The other hit – a single by C.J. Shambelan – came with two out in the sixth and final frame.
“He’s the best we have so he was going to go this game,” said Storm manager Jim Hungerford, son of the legendary WHYBL patriarch for whom the tournament is named.
“The best part about him is number one, he competes. He’s always going to compete no matter whatever’s going on around him. He’s pitched in games where things are falling apart behind him and he keeps his composure.”
That was far from the case against Newtown. Jeter threw strikes and needed just 80 pitches to cool off the Inferno.
“He was excellent,” Inferno manager Richard Dieckman said. “The reason we joined this tournament is we wanted to face good competition.”
With the Inferno’s biggest games just ahead, Dieckman opted to hold back his top pitchers.
“We were tempted to go with our star pitchers but we really did not want to do that because we have games on Saturday and Sunday no matter what,” he said. “I wanted to hold off with them and see how the game progressed. We didn’t hit anyway.”
The Storm scored the only run they needed in the first inning off Nick Venezia when Nick Becker bashed a one-out double, took third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch.
Becker was also in the middle of a third-inning rally that doubled West Hartford’s advantage.
Paul Wilson drilled a one-out single to center and took second on a wild pitch. Becker’s hit sent him to third. Sean Langan was hit by a pitch to fill the bases and Drew Hungerford worked a walk that forced Wilson home.
West Hartford added a third marker in the fifth without the benefit of a hit. Becker walked, and toured the basepaths on Langan’s sacrifice bunt, another wild pitch and a safety squeeze bunt by Jeter.
The hometown lads poured it on in the final inning.
Will Jackson walked, moved up twice on passed balls and scored easily on Luke Fox’s double. Doubles by Wilson and Langan also brought runs home.
West Hartford took advantage of six walks, a hit batsman, five wild pitches and three passed balls. The Inferno received no such gifts from the Storm, thanks in large part to Jeter.
“When you throw strikes, good things happen,” Manager Hungerford said. “We made the plays for him tonight but there’s nobody else I want on the mound in a big game like that than Chase.”
Hungerford met with his happy youngsters for the final time after the awards ceremony.
“More important than baseball is how they handle themselves with one another,” he said. “We had a rule on our team – to treat somebody else the way you wanted to be treated. This team really cared about their teammates more than they cared about themselves and that’s why they were 32-3.”
Hungerford Tournament Championship
WHYBL Storm 6, Newtown Inferno 0
(At Hedges Field, Wolcott Park)
WH Storm Newtown
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Wilson 2b 4 2 2 1 Shambelan rf 2 0 1 0
Becker cf 3 2 2 0 Primavera ss 3 0 0 0
Langan 3b-c 2 0 1 1 Palanzo 1b-p 2 0 1 0
Hungerford 1b 1 0 0 1 DeBona c 2 0 1 0
Jeter p 2 0 1 1 Citrano cf 1 0 0 0
DeLutrie rf 1 0 0 0 Godino 3b 1 0 0 0
Gaglioti lf 2 0 0 0 McInerney lf 2 0 0 0
Jackson ss 1 1 0 0 Steinebrey 2b 2 0 0 0
Murray lf 2 0 0 0 Venezia p-3b 1 0 0 0
Fox ph 1 1 1 1 Eppers p 1 0 0 0
Baron c 1 0 0 0 Aug 3b-p 2 0 0 0
Orlowski ph 2 0 1 0
Totals 22 6 8 5 Totals 19 0 3 0
WH Storm 101 013 – 6 8 0
Newtown Inferno 000 000 – 0 3 0
LOB – Storm 7, Inferno 2. 2B –Becker, Jeter, Fox, Wilson, Langan. S – Langan, Jeter. SB – Hungerford. CS – Jackson, DeBona.
ip h r er bb so
Jeter W 6 3 0 0 0 6
Venezia L 1 1 1 1 1 0
Aug 1.1 3 1 1 1 0
Palanzo 2.2 1 2 2 4 3
Eppers 1 3 2 2 0 0
WP – Venezia, Aug 2, Palanzo, Eppers. PB – DeBona 3. HBP – by Palanzo (Langan). T – 1:30. A – 85.