Published Date Written by Lloyd JonesCONWAY — The Mount Washington Valley 10 and Under All Stars are heading to the New Hampshire Cal Ripken State Championships this coming week. MWV went a perfect 7-0, including winning five of those games by the 10-run mercy rule, to win the District 8 crown to punch their ticket to Exeter and the state tournament.
"The guys are playing great baseball, I'm really proud of them," Mike DiGregorio, head coach of the MWV squad, said.
DiGregorio, a long time district commissioner, retired from that role this spring and returned to the diamond as a coach and has no regrets with the move.
"It's been great," he said, Friday. "I'm having a blast. I love working with the younger kids and we've been very successful. I think we've played around 23 games and lost only twice to other 10 and Under teams.
"We actually struggled to find other 10 and Under teams to play so we ended up playing six or seven games against 12 and Under teams and that really helped to get us ready for the Districts. I think we lost three games to 12 and Under teams and they were all by just one or two runs. ...My job is to get this team ready for competitive ball and have them prepared for the state tournament. I think we'll go down and represent ourselves and our community very well in Exeter."
The MWV All Stars are Nate Grames, Derek Dasclulias, William Eaton, Ryan Lund, Braeden Bailey, Ethan Ouellette, Chase Spencer, Dominic Jones, Justin Olson, Chet Johnston, Noah Barrows, Parker Coleman, Evan Dascoulias and Shane Johnston along with coaches David "Doc" Walker and Brad Grames.
MWV went 12-1 in tournament play going 5-1 in Plymouth and getting topped by the home side in the finals in early June. The local nine went 7-0 at Whitaker Field in North Conway to win the District 8 championship. In the best two-out-of-three finals against Plymouth last Tuesday, MWV swept the first two games to win the title. The team won the opener 8-1 and then took the nightcap 4-3 in thrilling fashion.
Grames picked up the win in the opener, tossing five innings of one hit ball while walking just two and striking out 13. He also helped MWV at the plate with a 3-4 performance with a pair of singles and a double. MWV batted around its lineup in the second inning to put the game out of reach.
Derek Dascoulias, who flirted with a no-hitter earlier in the tournament against Kingswood, picked up the win in Game 2 of the finals, throwing five solid innings.
With MWV trailing 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning Dascoulias reached on an error; Jones followed with a walk; and both sprinted home on a two-run double by Spencer.
Grames came pitched the bottom of the sixth and closed the door for the save. He struck out the lead batter; allowed a double; and then ended the game with back-to-back strike outs to seal the win.
The 10 and Under State Tournament runs July 6-12 in Exeter with MWV opening play Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Sawyer Field.
"I think we're playing a team from Rochester/Dover area," DiGregorio said. "I'm sure they'll be strong, they always are. ...Like any travel team our kids just want it so much more than what I call the regular season kids. They're willing to learn and wake up each morning with a baseball in their hands. It's rewarding to me as a coach when these kids come to me and ask what they have to do and can do to get better."
DiGegorio is confident MWV has the pitching to compete against the other district winners. "We have kids who can throw the ball," he said. "I think if I'm concerned about anything it's our hitting. We've scored a ton of runs this summer, but we're going to be facing much, much better pitching at the state level. We're going to be playing against kids who play year round."
In an effort to make the MWV players better hitters, DiGregorio has been working to get four batting cages set up at the local fields (Conway Elementary School; Dick O'Brien Field at the Conway Recreation Department; the John Fuller School School; and the Precinct Field in Bartlett, which is better known as Black Fly Stadium) in Mount Washington Valley.
Tropical Storm Irene last August damaged over $3,000 in league equipment including a pitching machine.
"We're going to practice every day to get ready for states," DiGregorio. "We've got to be prepared for a whole new level of pitching at the state tournament. I'm confident we can go down there and win a game or two. The thing I like about our team is these guys never quit, they leave it all on the field."
If MWV wins the state tournament it will advance to the New England Regionals in Danbury, Ct., July 21-26. The winner of the Regionals advances to the 10 and Under World Series in Bentonville, Arkansas from Aug.10-17.
MWV Cal Ripken baseball has been the primary baseball program in the valley for over 25 years and teaches the game to boys and girls from ages 6 to 12. MWV Cal Ripken is independently run and relies on the generosity of its team sponsors, player fees, and fund-raising activities.