BURRILLVILLE — When skipper Bob Gelinas and the rest of his brethren within the Burrillville Little League were busy choosing their All-Stars a few weeks ago, one name kept coming to the fore.
Gelinas felt Cameron Toti, a mere 11, had all the tools to represent the Burrillville squad. He could play multiple positions well, hit the ball more solidly than others his age and had a quiet confidence about him.
That’s why the head coach didn’t seem that surprised when Toti delivered the game-winning double in the bottom half of the sixth and final frame to give Burrillville an astonishing 1-0 victory over Cumberland National in both teams’ second game of this R.I. Little League District IV Major Division (11-12) Tournament’s Pool B competition.
“He’s our lone 11-year-old, and we brought him up to the All-Star team this year because I knew he could contribute to the club,” Gelinas noted after raving speaking with his club in right field of Sherman Park’s Rymanski Field. “He’s a talented kid, and I knew he had it in him.
“I have all the confidence in the world in him, and look at what he did!” he added.
What made this contest all the more interesting – if you were one of the 150 fans on hand, insert your own adjective here (i.e. incredible, magnificent, amazing, etc.) – was the chess-like quality to it.
CNLL southpaw Zach Fogell came up with a one-for-the-ages outing; he didn’t allow a hit through 5 2/3 frames, walked just one and whiffed a whopping 13.
On the other side, future Bronco Keith Doucette yielded just one hit and a walk while striking out a pair.
Still, with the game scoreless entering the back half of the sixth, Doucette himself rolled a grounder to third, and an ensuing bobble gave him first base (it was only the second time Burrillville had a base runner throughout.
With Brady Farrell in the box, Fogell’s wild pitch gave Doucette a slow trot into second, but the stellar lefty fanned him, then did the same to Burrillville leadoff Jake Gelinas.
At that point, Fogell had reached the 87-pitch plateau. According to national Little League, Inc. rules, no pitcher may face another batter after throwing 85, meaning CNLL manager John Shevlin had to replace his standout.
Shevlin opted for righthander Evan Marcet, his solid shortstop, and that’s when Toti stepped to the plate.
On a 2-1 delivery, Toti whacked a bouncing grounder down the third-base line, one that went for a two-bagger, and it plated Doucette with relative ease. That’s when players from the home, third-base dugout erupted in cheer and raced to congratulate both hitter and base runner.
“When (Shevlin) was going to his reliever, I called Cam over for a chat,” the elder Gelinas offered. “I said, ‘Do you have confidence in me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, Coach.’ I told him, ‘I have a lot of confidence in you, too. Here’s your chance to be the hero. I know you can do this!’
“I also told Keith at second, ‘Look, we’ve got two outs, so as soon as you see the ball hit, you’ve got to be ready to score. Be ready to hustle around (third).’ He legged it out, and that was so nice to see.
“All of these kids come from the same script,” he continued. “They work their tails off; I’ve never seen a group work as hard as these guys. At practice, they hate us coaches because we push them and keep pushing, but with a game like this, now they know.”
The consummate pitchers’ duel started with Doucette yielding his perfect game/no-hitter early. With two down in the top of the first, Fogell drilled a two-out single to center. Before it reached Marcus Audet, it had caromed off what seemed to be Doucette’s back, and he immediately fell in a lump on the hill.
After perhaps a five-minute delay to get the hurler on his feet, Doucette tossed three or four to backstop Kyle Pelletier, and remained in the game.
Not long after, CNLL clean-up hitter Jackson Shevlin crushed a liner to center, though Audet hauled it in for the final out.
While Fogell was busy manufacturing 14 straight outs, 10 via the “K,” Doucette retired 10 in a row before walking Marcet in the top of the fifth. That’s when Coach Gelinas chose to move to reliever (and son) Jake Gelinas, who already had made four stellar stops at short.
The younger Gelinas whiffed Jackson Bright, then forced Jay Vartanian to ground into a fielder’s choice (one in which the pitcher immediately threw to second for the lead out). Tyler Kolek bounced to first baseman Ryan Lockwood to end the inning.
After Fogell had fanned Lockwood for the second out in the fifth, he issued a free bag to Colin Kennedy, and it seemed he may have been tiring.
Fogell squelched that thought when he struck out Jared Turcotte.
Gelinas made another two solid stops of grounders knocked at him in the sixth, and that set up Toti’s late-game heroics.
Gelinas gained the win, and now is 2-0 in this D-IV event (after Burrillville crushed Bernon, 13-6, in the opener on Saturday). Fogell settled for the no-decision, while Marcet took the loss.
When asked what he told his guys in his post-tilt meeting in left field, Coach Shevlin shrugged, “I just said we’d be back. I asked them to keep their heads up, that we were in the same situation as last year. We lost our first game to Burrillville, then won three straight and got to the Final Four.
“I told them, ‘I expect you guys to do just that,’” he added. “They’ve got the heart and the will. We just fell victim to the pitch count. If we had faced one less batter, Zach would’ve pitched a (complete, six-inning game) and we would’ve gone to extras.
“Zach’s fastball was really on (Wednesday). He’s a coach’s dream as a player. He could have an ego of a pro ballplayer, but he’s so down-to-earth. The best thing about him, he’s an unbelievable teammate. Nobody works harder. We’re very proud of him.”
Shevlin wasn’t alone. Coach Gelinas raved about the hurler his squad faced.
“I want to tip my cap to Zach Fogell; he’s the best Little League pitcher I’ve seen from this area,” he smiled. “Connor Sheehan, who threw for Lincoln last year, was amazing, but Zach’s right there with him.
“That’s a great team they have there; this was a true battle. Both sides finished with a one-hitter, and Zach had virtually a complete-game no-hitter. How can you not the praise the kid? How often do you see a game like this, with one hit a side? I’ve got one answer: Never! Not even in the pros!”
CNLL (1-1 in four-game pool play) will attempt to rebound when it hosts Glocester at Garvin Field at 5:30 p.m., Saturday. At the same time, Burrillville (2-0) will travel to North Smithfield’s Pacheco Field.
“I’m at full force with my pitching staff going into Saturday,” Gelinas mentioned. “I’ve got Doucette, who’s one of the best pitchers in this tournament, I feel; he only threw 46 here, so he’s available, and so is my son, Jake. I also have Brennan Richards, so I have a full complement of pitchers.”