GROTON -- The Groton U9 Cal Ripken baseball team showed its true colors by winning the first two games of the district tournament in Hudson.
The run started with an 8-5 victory over host Hudson.
"We started off in the game against Hudson with great pitching from my son, Nate Glencross, and Jay Fulreader," said manager Bill Glencross. "We rode a couple different pitchers through the districts. They split the game, the first game. Both pitched really well. The team played great as a whole."
Nate Glencross seized MVP honors for Groton in its first game with Hudson with a pair of timely hits and runs batted in. Nate Glencross would go on to take MVP Honors for Groton in all four of its tournament games.
Those two wins pitted the gritty boys from Groton against perennial powerhouse Marlboro in the championship round.
"It was a team contribution," coach Glencross said. "We had plays from everybody. We have twins Colin and Colby Rathbone. They are a pair that every coach at the end of every game comes up and says 'we love those kids.'"
The Rathbone brothers are on the smaller side, but their heart and grittiness is something that opposing coaches appreciate.
"The Rathbone kids are tiny, but they do everything," said Glencross. They catch, they pitch. They just scrap. That's just the kind of kids they are."
A common problem for youth baseball coaches when summertime rolls around is keeping the players interested and working around summer vacations.
"The commitment of summer baseball is such where many families forego summer vacations," said Glencross. "They played together in the Stacey Bradley tournament and they were semifinalists. They lost a one-run game to Leominster. They just battle. We have a couple of kids who are dominant at times, but you don't just win with one or two guys."
The Groton team lost its first game of the championship series to Marlboro, and had to play them again an hour later, under the sweltering 100-degree sun, with just nine players.
Groton exploded for 11 runs in the decisive back-end of the twin-bill and took the Cal Ripken District U9 title by a score of 11-1 over Marlboro.
The Groton nine overcame great adversity, as one of the players experienced a death in the family the night before, but he still showed up on Saturday and made an impact.
The Groton team lost its first game of the championship to Marlboro, and multiple players experienced symptoms of heat exhaustion.
"Marlboro is a solid team and we just kind of had a tough game against them," said Glencross. "We saved our pitching and came back. Nate started the (second) game and pitched two innings of shutout baseball and Fulreader came on and pitched two innings of shutout baseball. Ethan Loomis was the catcher, after Dagle threw up, he couldn't play in the second game. Loomis started throwing up at the end of the game we lost and caught all six innings. I was thinking if he (Loomis) doesn't step up and play, we are going to have to forfeit the game."
The team rose to the challenge and took care of business by mercying Marlboro 11-1 in the finals. Timely hitting by Tommy Onishi and the rest of the Groton lineup helped the team defy the odds and secure the District title.
"The 11-1 game was tough," said Glencross. "We had a boy, William Dagle, lose his grandfather Friday night and made it to the game the next night and contributed. When we won it was the entire team. It was David Gentile making the big catch; it was great catching by Jake Brown and a big hit by Ben Furman. The whole team effort from those guys. Everybody contributed in the win."
The Groton U9 team travels to Western Mass. for the state championship in Hinsdale next Friday.