GILFORD — For the third straight year the Gilford 10U All-Stars won the District 6 Cal Ripken tournament.
After going 5-0 in pool play the Gilford All-Stars faced off against Lakes Region in a three-game series, losing 6-3 in the first game but scoring 13-2 and 7-0 wins over the next two days in the tournament, which was played in Franklin and ended on July 3.
''Pitching and defense were the keys for us,'' said Coach Rick Muthersbaugh, who is in his second year as coach of the All-Stars and was assistant coach when Gilford won their first district championship in Franklin in 2011.
He said that his coaches, Jeff McKinney and Joe Rizzitano, helped develop the fielding skills of his young team, which included three eight-year-olds, one in the infield and two in the outfield, as well as prepare them mentally for the challenges of tournament play.
''Playing good defense helps keep you in the game and prevents big innings which can cost you the game,'' says Muthersbaugh, who added that it is important for the young players to realize that making an error isn't the end of the world.
''We tell them that errors are part of the game and the best thing they can do is put it behind them,'' said Muthersbaugh.
He said that Connor Sullivan was the ace pitcher for the Gilford All-Stars while his nine-year-old son, Ben, who first started at that position as seven-year-old, did a good job as catcher.
Following the District 6 tournament the Gilford All-Stars went on to the state Cal Ripken tournament in Exeter, where they won a game for the first time and played competitive baseball in all three games.
''We lost 2-1 to Exeter, the defending state champions, in the first game. The way we played earned us the respect of other teams and that what as a good feeling,'' said Muthersbaugh.
Gilford beat Great North Woods 14-4 in its second tournament game before bowing out with a 3-0 loss to Youngsville.
''It's been a big improvement over the last three years. In our first state tournament we only played eight innings in two games because we were behind by 10 runs in both of them. Last year we lost 3-2 and 5-4 in seven innings. But this year we were really competitive against teams which draw from a much bigger base than we have.'' said Muthersbaugh.
He said there were only 100 players in Gilford, Cal Ripken this year while some of the other tournament teams have a pool of 500 or more and have All-Star teams at each age level, which helps them prepare for future tournaments.
''It's quite an accomplishment for a small town like ours to be competitive with much larger programs.'' said Muthersbaugh.
Front row: Alex Berube and Sebastian Moceri (lying on ground on either side of trophy); second row: Tyler Rizzitano, Riley Marsh, DJ Roberts, Anthony Aguiar, Harry Meehan, third row: Tyler Talbot, Billy McKinney, Jack McLean, Connor Sullivan, Ben Muthersbaugh; back row: Coach Jeff McKinney, Coach Rick Muthersbaugh, Coach Joe Rizzitano (Courtesy photo)