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Article Published August 12, 2019
Clinton Huskies Lose in Championship of East Shore League Playoffs
Chris Negrini, Assistant Sports Editor

The Clinton Huskies 19-U AAU baseball team finished up the summer season last week with a pair of East Shore Playoff contests on Aug. 9. The Huskies earned an 11-10 win in extra innings over the Northern CT Mustangs in the semifinals. After that, the Huskies lost a 15-4 contest in the East Shore finals to end their postseason run. Clinton finished its 2019 season with a 14-3-1 overall record.

Head Coach Willie Fritz has a singular goal for the Huskies every campaign, and that’s to improve over the course of the season. Clinton’s AAU program is more about development than it is about winning games, and the Huskies showed tremendous growth by the year’s end.

“My thing has always been it’s not about wins and losses it’s whether we get better from when you start to when you finish and we did that,” said Coach Fritz. “These kids really wanted it, and that’s what I want to see.”

Clinton earned a bye for the quarterfinals because of their stellar regular season record. In the semifinal contest against the Northern CT Mustangs, the Huskies showed just how much they wanted to move onto the final by coming back multiple times in the contest and forcing extra innings. Coach Fritz saw a huge game from Spencer Buckley, who went 4-for-5 with three RBI, a home run, and a game-winning single. AJ Fritz earned the win on the mound and went 3-for-5 at the plate with three runs scored. Ryan Inglis scored a pair of runs, as well. That trio was really effective according to Fritz.

“Spencer did a great job this season, and he played without a care in the world. That’s the kind of approach that made him effective. He was up at the plate just having fun and swinging away, and he did a pretty darn good job in the outfield,” said Fritz. “We had guys playing everywhere. AJ had to play shortstop both games last night, and he’s really an outfielder, pitcher, and thirdbaseman. Inglis was really the only guy that we had play consistently at one position, second base, because he’s going to play there for Morgan next year. All year it was different guys in different spots coming up big.”

Clinton came out of the gates strong versus the Mustangs. In the bottom of the first inning, the Huskies put four runs on the board including a three-run home run by Nick Caprio. Then in the top of the third inning, the Mustangs tied the game with four runs of their own. In the bottom of the same frame, the Huskies scored a run to make it 5-4. The score would remain there until the seventh inning, when the Mustangs put up three runs to take a 7-5 advantage. Then in the bottom of the seventh, the Huskies tied the game up with a pair of runs that included a game tying solo-shot from Buckley to send the game to extras tied at 7-7.

In the eighth inning, the Mustangs put two more runs on the board to take a 9-7 lead, but the Huskies would not go away. Mike Menacho and Inglis both walked to get on base. Brady Fritz hit a single that drove in Menacho, and AJ Fritz had a hit to bring home Inglis to tie the game. No one would score in the ninth inning, but AJ Fritz got out of a bases loaded jam with nobody out to preserve the 9-9 tie. The Mustangs put another run on the board in the top of the 10th inning to take a 10-9 lead.

In the bottom of the frame, Inglis led off with a base hit. After two fly outs, AJ Fritz hit a single that put runners at first and second. Trevor Follo walked to load the bases with two away. Then Spencer Buckley came up and drove a walk-off single to left field that plated Inglis and AJ Fritz for the 11-10 final.

Coach Fritz loved what his squad showed by staring deficit after deficit in the face and coming away with the victory over the Mustangs.

“It was a fantastic game, back and forth with a couple of really competitive teams,” said Coach Fritz. “Our guys never gave up. We went down and came back multiple times.”

The Huskies started off with John urban on the mound, and he put in five innings of solid work giving up four runs. Ultimately AJ Fritz got the win closing out the final three innings of the game.

In the final, the Huskies went up against CT Hank’ Yanks and took a tough 15-4 loss. The Huskies scored two runs in the first inning to grab an early lead, but the Yanks scored three runs in the top of second to take a 3-2 lead, and that lead grew with a three run third inning. The Huskies would add a run apiece in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, but by then the game was too far out of reach for Clinton.

The Huskies ended up playing a marathon between their two playoff games. Coach Fritz believed he saw the effects come in the second game. After Clinton had to claw its way back into the semis several times before ultimately winning, it was going to be tough to keep that same level of play late into the evening.

“We didn’t start the second game until about a quarter to 10. It was tough after that first game, plus with this age group, they’re all working all day, too,” said Coach Fritz. “These guys are flying down from work to get to a six o’clock game. Some of these guys, when they get there, they’re already beat, but that’s true for everybody.”

In the end, Coach Fritz would have loved to see his squad reach the top of the mountain with a finals victory, but he feels good about the strong year the Huskies had in 2019. Again, the end goal is to keep improving. Clinton did that, and the squad’s 14 wins showed that.

“We love it, and we want to keep the program going. 13 years ago we started the Hounds, and they became the Huskies. This is our high school feeder program, and we’re trying to keep it going,” said Fritz. “One of my sayings is to go out and have fun and what is fun? Winning. So the harder you work, the better you get; and the better you get, the more you win. We had a lot of fun. That’s what it’s all about.”