Tolland Junior League All-Stars proudly represent state in regionals

FREEHOLD — After playing an entire month of nearly flawless baseball, winning district and state titles and earning a berth into the Junior League Baseball Eastern Regionals, the Tolland All-Stars looked poised to make a run at a national championship.

But baseball is a funny game. All the things that had gone right for Tolland en route to a second consecutive state championship went wrong in Freehold, New Jersey. And as a result, the team was eliminated after its second game.

“The funny thing is I think we were one of the better teams down there,” Tolland’s manager Scott Curtis said. “Typical of baseball, I’ve had a lot of these kids since middle school. We went 11-0, we played very well in districts and states, but every team has stretches where they don’t play well, and unfortunately ours came in our two games down there.”

Photo courtesy of Katie Ouellette

Tolland lost to Massachusetts first, 10-6 committing nine errors. The following day, the team committed five more, losing to Maine 9-2.

“I feel bad for the kids,” Curtis said. “New Jersey didn’t see our true abilities. We beat ourselves. Unfortunately that happens. But the fact that they won a state championship is something they can be proud of.”

During an incredible run to capture the state title, Tolland defeated Edgewood and Canton, two teams that rival the talent and ability of both Massachusetts and Maine.

Just like major league baseball teams can hit a slump, so too did Tolland at the worst time possible.

“Immediately after we all took it hard,” Canton said. “We realized all of us are moving on to different stages, school baseball and what not. We had been winning a lot and you wonder if you’ll ever have the opportunity to do something like that again. We had a lot of upset kids and coaches as well. The hardest thing to take is to know we did not play our best. You wonder what you could have done. But it fuels the fire, and keeps you motivated for the years to come.”

The experience of traveling to New Jersey in the limelight and representing the entire state of Connecticut is an experience the boys will never forget.

“It was great for our kids, especially those kids who didn’t get to do it last year,” the manager said. “They really do it up. The complex down there is beautiful they keep it well groomed. They announce the all kids, there is a banquet Friday and ceremony Saturday. It was something special that I and the kids will cherish 20, 30 years from now.”

Tolland won and lost as a team. Which is a much more impressive accomplishment than it sounds at first glance.

“I’ve been lucky enough to coach a lot of them in both basketball and baseball in the last few years,” Curtis said. “The thing I am most proud of is how they are as teammates and how they work together. They know it’s not one person it’s the team. Our motto was ‘what can we do for the team, what do we want Tolland baseball to represent?’ the kids have bought into that and the future for Tolland baseball I think is very bright.”

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