Guilford 12-U All-Stars Baseball Squad Made a Memorable Run This Summer
After making a deep run as an 11-U program last summer, the athletes on the Guilford 12-U All-Stars Little League Majors baseball team saw a successful season in 2022. Many of the players from last year’s 11-U team returned for another run in the District 9 Tournament at the 12-U level this year. Although the Guilford All-Stars came up just shy of winning the title, Head Coach Chris Ogeneski said that the competitiveness, cohesiveness, and class of his athletes made for a wonderful summer on the ballfield.
The Guilford 12-U All-Stars were undefeated in pool play in the District 9 Tournament and then went on to advance to the championship. Ultimately, Guilford faced Madison for the title and needed to defeat Madison twice in order to claim the district crown. Guilford defeated Madison by a 5-4 score in the first game of the final before taking a 9-3 loss in a winner-take-all contest.
The players on the Guilford 12-U All-Stars baseball squad are Ethan Aulenti, Matthew Cassidy, Cole Connellan, Miles Drake, Ethan Eagle, Will Eden, Gavin Fleck, Noah Loban, Eric Lowe, Nolan McGowen, Ben Mennone, Charlie Ogeneski, Ethan Russo, and Nicholas Vigliotti. Coach Ogeneski was assisted by Greg Aulenti, Frank Mennone, Ralph Russo, and Dan Vigliotti.
Ogeneski felt excited for an opportunity to work with an All-Stars group that claimed District 9 and Section 3 titles on its way to making the state’s Final Four in Guilford’s 11-U program in 2021. That experience helped create a unique chemistry and some unbreakable bonds among Guilford’s athletes as they hit the field to play ball again this year.
“This group has been together for a number of years. They’ve played against each other within the town’s Little League and with each other,” Coach Ogeneski said. “They’ve done well and had a lot of success over the years.”
This year’s District 9 Tournament took place from June 29 to July 13. The Guilford All-Stars opened the tourney by playing four pool-play games and came away with a record of 4-0.
Guilford notched a 10-0 win against Middletown on July 29 and followed that up with an 11-1 victory versus East Hampton two days later. Coach Ogeneski’s crew then finished off pool play with a 10-1 win over Coginchaug on July 2 and a 6-0 shutout against Clinton on July 5. As evidenced by those outcomes, Guilford received plenty of production at the plate in all four contests.
“In the District 9 Tournament, every kid had a hit. That’s not typical of an All-Star team playing against other All Star teams,” said Ogeneski. “We have a lot of guys who can hit. We might not have had it in the games that we needed it, but for the overall tournament, we had consistent hitting.”
Despite posting blowouts in all four pool-play games, the Guilford All-Stars made sure that they didn’t run up the score in their victories. Coach Ogenski was impressed with the respect that Guilford’s young players showed for their opponents in those matchups.
“In some of the pool-play games, we were losing in the beginning of the game. We came back and would win,” Ogeneski said. “They played with class and character.”
Guilford’s 4-0 run through pool play advanced the team to a double-elimination series that featured the other top squads from the pool-play portion of the tournament. Guilford claimed an 18-2 victory against Portland on July 8 and then took a 1-0 loss to Madison two days later, putting the team on the brink of elimination. Guilford bounced back with a 19-5 win over East Hampton on July 11, setting the stage for a grand finale versus Madison.
Coach Ogeneski had a simple message for his players as they prepared to play Madison again. Throughout the tournament, Ogenski emphasized the importance of giving a full tank’s worth of effort, and he wanted to see his players continue doing so when they faced Madison with their season at stake.
“One of the themes that we talked about was when you step on the field and cross the white line, you give 100-percent effort,” said Ogeneski. “I don’t care if you make mistakes. Everybody’s going to make errors.”
The dedication of the Guilford All-Stars to giving a complete effort paid off when they played Madison in the District 9 championship at Adams Field on July 12. In a back-and-forth matchup, Guilford held off a late surge from Madison to earn a 5-4 victory. The win featured a variety of highlights for Coach Ogeneski’s squad, including a home run, a 12-pitch strikeout, and many incredible defensive plays that forced a decisive game of the series.
“We had a bunch of nice defensive plays. We had a diving catch in the outfield. At the end of the game, we had a double play. When your number was called, they delivered,” said Ogeneski. “It was a beautiful game to watch. There were some things that you didn’t expect to happen.”
On July 13, the Guilford All-Stars faced Madison in the final game of the District 9 Tournament and took a 9-3 defeat in the contest. Despite the loss, Coach Ogeneski was proud of the effort and grit that his team displayed throughout the entire tournament.
“It’s just baseball. Sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can’t, but they fought to the end,” Ogenski said. “That was impressive.”
Coach Ogeneski said that the most rewarding aspect of the Guilford 12-U All-Stars baseball squad’s run to the District 9 final was the excellent teamwork among his players. Ogenski felt pleased to see how much everyone supported each other and admired the maturity that they displayed in the dugout. Ogenski is looking forward to seeing the next steps that this special group of athletes take in both their baseball careers and beyond.
“I thought they had great success over their careers on the Little League field,” said Ogeenski. “Now, they go to the big field and, hopefully, they all have success somewhere in their lives going forward.”