STAMFORD, Conn. When it mattered most, North Stamford played its best in winning the District 1 Little League Tournament. Manager Dave Grafstein hopes the trend continues when the All-Stars open Section 1 play beginning Wednesday night with a 5:30 game in Orange against Berlin.
"I don't think we played our best in pool play,'' Grafstein said. "We were fortunate to come out of it. After that, our practices were just better. We started hitting the ball better in practice. The practices leading up to the semifinals, we thought we would play our best game and we did. What turned it around, it's hard to say."
North Stamford won its third straight District 1 title with a 9-5 win over National Lione on Sunday. The All-Stars went 6-1 in pool play, including a 3-1 loss to Lione. North Stamford also won a tight 7-6 game against Redding, an 8-5 slugfest over Stamford American and came from behind to beat Ridgefield American, 12-8, in its final pool game. An 8-1 win over Darien American in the semifinals helped swing the momentum, and the team finished strong with Sunday's victory.
Besides the District 1 experience, North Stamford can also recall its play in last year's Section 1 tournament as 11-year-old All-Stars. Grafstein and coaches Gary Purpura and Jim Socci worked with many of the players on the North Stamford team that went 2-2 in last year's Section 1 tournament for 11-year-olds.
"I think our pitching is deeper than last year,'' Grafstein said. "We've added Hunter Semmel, who has been key in closing out several games. We have the two Grants, Stone and Purpura, back from last year. Rhett Hoskinson has pitched well lately. There's no question that we're a better team. There's a lot of growth between the ages of 11 and 12."
North Stamford faced Fairfield American, Shelton National and East Haven during last year's 11-year-old tournament. All of those teams return, along with Berlin. North Stamford plays Shelton National on Thursday, Fairfield American on Saturday and East Haven on Monday. The complete schedule and standings are available online .
The North Stamford All-Stars include Jordan Benzaken, Ryan Cahill, Telly Colarossi, Chris Glynn, Michael Grafstein, Rhett Hoskinson, Russell Lofters, Alex Mella, Grant Purpura, Patrick Seegers, Hunter Semmel, Anthony Socci and Grant Stone.
"We have a deep lineup, and we feel good about everybody coming to the plate,'' Grafstein said. "The District 1 tournament left us well-prepared. We saw a little bit of everything."
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