Published in the July 13, 2018 edition

MELROSE — On Thursday, July 5, the Melrose Little League 11-year-old All-Stars faced off against the Medford LL All-Stars for the District 12 Championship at Conant Park in Melrose.

A hot night, two talented teams, and a full crowd of family, friends and fans added to the championship atmosphere.

The visiting Medford Mustangs jumped out early and looked strong, building a 4-0 lead against Melrose through two innings. Medford’s lead could have been more if not for a fine defensive effort from centerfielder Nicholas Hitchman who chased down an outfield hit in right center field and hit his cut off man, second baseman Michael Thomas. Thomas quickly turned the relay towards home plate and threw a strike to waiting catcher Dylan Harrington. Harrington skillfully caught the ball with a Medford runner bearing down on him and applied a true tag to cut down the would-be runner at home plate to end the threat.

THE MELROSE LITTLE LEAGUE District 12 11 year-old champs. Front row from left to right: Colin Walsh, Brandon Ward, Sammy Cognata, Dylan Terranova, Nicholas Hitchman, Michael Thomas, Dylan Harrington, and Brendan Doyle. In the back row from left: Daniel Ferris, Jaiden Aquino, Quinn Mathews, and Quinn Fogarty. (Courtesy Photo)

Melrose got good starting pitching from Brendan Doyle and Doyle was relieved on the hill by Quinn Mathews. Mathews skillfully worked at a steady pace and fired strike after strike, limiting the high flying Mustangs to only one hit in four innings to keep Medford from building on their 4-0 lead. Melrose backed both Doyle and Mathews with solid defense, led by Daniel Ferris at 1st base, Dylan Terranova at 3rd base, steady shortstop Colin Walsh, and outfielder’s Quinn Fogarty and Sammy Cognata.

Melrose’s offense joined the party in the 4th inning when catcher Jaiden Aquino blasted an opposite field triple to the right field fence. Aquino would score on a hard hit ball by Quinn Mathews and then Mathews was driven in on another well hit ball to the outfield by Thomas. Harrington’s third hit of the night knocked in Thomas and suddenly it was a 4-3 Mustang lead after four innings. That wouldn’t be the last we heard from Harrington on this night.

After a scoreless 5th inning, and Medford quickly retired in the top of the 6th inning, Melrose entered the bottom of the 6th inning trailing by a run. This group of eleven year old ball players would not falter. After Mathews lined out to right field, Calvin Zimmerman worked a key walk to get the comeback started. Brandon Ward would follow Zimmerman with a hard hit single to put the winning runs on base. Zimmerman and Ward would advance to 2nd and 3rd on an out by Thomas, setting the stage for red hot Dylan Harrington. Harrington skillfully ignored the noise and laced the first pitch he saw sharply into left field. Running with two outs, Zimmerman scored to tie the game and the fleet-footed Ward raced home ahead of Medford’s throw to score the winning run to set off a home plate celebration, earning Melrose a dramatic victory to clinch the District 12 11-year-old title!

Eleven of the fourteen players on this Melrose team were on the 10-year-old District Champs in 2017. This group returns for the second year in a row to the State Third Sectionals, with an eye on the state championships. The 2018 Section Three Championships will be hosted in Norwood on July 12 through July 15, where Melrose will represent District 12 against teams from District 9, District 10 and District 11. Best of luck to the team, their parents and coaches.

The 11 year old All-Stars are coached by Cory Thomas, Dan Harrington, Chris Walsh and Dan Ferris.