RCP's Tyler Baldwin throws his final pitch, a strike, polishing off a complete-game, one-hitter in a 2-0 shutout of Berlin last Wednesday.
Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland 19U baseball had another solid CT American Legion season, coming up just short of a trip to the Super Regionals.
After finishing the regular season as Zone 3 champs with a record of 14-8, the team had to overcome an opening round loss to Berlin in the double elimination Northern Division Sectional Tournament.
As fate would have it, RCP won their next game (2-0 over Niantic) to set up a rematch with Berlin in the third round.
Tyler Baldwin pitched a complete-game masterpiece in the rematch, allowing only one hit as RCP eliminated their rivals (2-0) at Fran Monnes Field in Cromwell.
“I don’t think we had any nerves. We have a great group of guys here, so we knew what we had to do, beat Niantic and then come back here and beat them,” Baldwin recalled of the team’s mindset after the loss to Berlin, “The first game, personally I think we should have had that game. Losing that just made us want to win even more, especially because it was these guys. We wanted to come here and give it right back to them after they beat us here.”
Baldwin was lights out in his final start, which was indicative of his entire season. As the season progressed, the flame-throwing righty became the ace on a unit loaded with talent.
RCP’s pitching staff allowed a state-low 1.9 run per game during the regular season and, for his part, Baldwin didn’t allow a run in over 40 innings of work on the mound.
It was a season that not even the confident Baldwin could have anticipated.
“Honestly no, if you told me I was going to come in this summer and pitch for the first time for RCP and go this many innings scoreless and come here in an elimination game in the playoffs and almost throw a perfect game. But I’m glad, it’s been awesome.”
The night following the elimination of Berlin, RCP suffered their own season-ending loss, a 3-2 heartbreaker to Southington in the sectional finals. RCP needed to beat Southington twice to move on to the Super Regionals but never got to the second game, losing the first contest on a seventh inning walk-off.
It was an emotional end for a team that accomplished a great deal under head coach Paul Francis, who wrapped up his first season as the head coach for the 19U team.
Francis started coaching RCP baseball in 2011 as an assistant for the 17U team and then worked his way through the ranks, including as an assistant on the 19U team that won the World Series in 2016.
Over the past couple of seasons, the skipper formed a special bond with the current group, especially the five Cromwell-based players that will be moving on.
Francis posted this touching message on social media following the loss to Southington.
“I was a 20 year old trying to figure out my life. You guys were 14 year old freshmen trying to find your place at Cromwell High School. Together we grew up, together we won, and together we lost. But the bond us five have will last forever, and that’s more important than what happens between the lines.
You played at Henderson and Lindquist, you played at CMS, your played for Coach Pappariella, and you played RCP. Just like me. Besides the fact all five of you were better than me.
Usually the coach is supposed to be the teacher. But you guys taught me everything. Without you guys, I’m not who I am today, and I don’t get to coach where I grew up. You guys have helped my life a hell of a lot more than I’ve helped yours.
I couldn’t be more proud of a young group of young men in my life, young men who are going to grow into amazing adults. No matter what you guys do in life you’re going to succeed, because you’re winners. This hurts now, but one day we’ll be sitting around a table talking about all the memories we’ve had together, and those memories last forever.
Cade Palladino, Austin Roy, David Dewey, Zach Lombardo, and Jared Valentin, thank you. Thank you for taking a chance on me, believing in me, and giving me everything you had for 6 years. Hopefully I returned the favor.
Don’t forget your small town ball coach. It will always be nothing but love.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin