CHELMSFORD — Top to bottom, there was something special about this year’s 11U Cal Ripken baseball team from Chelmsford.
Not a one-man show, the group of 13 youngsters put together a remarkable run, chock full of memories that will last a lifetime. And on top of that, the players were able to return to Chelmsford with a handful of hardware and the promise of more excitement in the future.
“It’s been an awesome summer for this group,” Chelmsford manager Lou DiStasi said. “It’s a group of kids that’s won our district in Cal Ripken play every year since they’ve been 8, but never been able to take the next step. They’ve always been very competitive, though. This summer was something special for them.”
Chelmsford again won its Cal Ripken district — including teams from Tewskbury, Westford and Shedd Park — this year, but then won the state tournament to claim a spot in the New England regional championship in Waterville, Maine.
“We thought we had a team that was good enough to win the state tournament. That was our goal and they went out and did it,” DiStasi said. “But in the New England tournament, they played the best baseball I’ve ever seen our little group play.”
The team came together to win five games in six days, capped by a mercy-shortened 11-1 victory over Brunswick, Maine, that saw Colby Kinney end the tournament with a three-run homer in the fifth.
“We had 13 kids on this team and every single one of them had a big moment in the tournaments we played in. That was the craziest part to me,” DiStasi said. “It was just unbelievable. Everyone came up with a moment that I’ll never forget.”
The sense of being a team was heightened by time spent in dorms on the campus of Colby College for the regional tournament. Team activities included rounds of mini-golf and swimming outings.
Unfortunately for the Chelmsford 11U team, the dream season ended after the New England regional, as Cal Ripken’s World Series tournament is for 12-year-olds, much like Little League. But that doesn’t mean the group doesn’t still have something to look forward to.
“Waterville is hosting the World Series next year, so they get an automatic berth and get to invite another team for a spot. They turned this year’s regional into kind of an invitational for that spot, so by winning, we’ll be going next year,” DiStasi said. “Getting to the World Series is the ultimate dream for any team at any level. I still don’t think we comprehend what a big deal it is, but it’s definitely exciting.”
Chelmsford’s roster is made up of Nate Duggan, Will Colucci, Evan Kobrenski, Cody DiStasi, Ryan Higgins, Jack Kiggins, Matthew Wilson, Matthew Bromberg, Keegan Briere, Andrew Murray, Kai Mackessy, Will Morgan and Colby Kinney. The team is managed by Lou DiStasi, along with coaches Justin Briere, Greg Mackessy and Barry Morgan.