CT Dawgs 18U’s Gilligan delivers four-inning no-hitter

By DN WRITING STAFF | October 29, 2023

The Dawgs’ Tyler Harmony breaks for second after a base hit in the second inning.

By Rich Bevensee

Working backwards on the mound may sound like an odd proposition, but in fact it’s beneficial for a high school age pitcher who’s serious about baseball and working toward earning a college roster spot.

Kellen Gilligan embraces every bit of the challenge. 

Gilligan, a lanky righthander with the Connecticut Dawgs 17U club team, is building his repertoire by mastering his off-speed pitches in fastball counts. That’s working backwards. 

“I’ve been getting used to it,” Gilligan said. “Once you get more comfortable throwing the off-speeds more often, then it becomes pretty easy to do that every time.”

The backwards-working Gilligan flummoxed 5-Star Select 2024 Gold in a four-inning no-hitter while the Dawgs earned an 11-0 pool play victory in the 17-18U Wood Bat division of the Halloween Mash on Saturday at Diamond Nation in Flemington.

The 6-3, 210-pound righty faced two batters over the minimum, allowing single walks in the first and third innings. He also struck out seven. 

“Kellen filled the strike zone and was pitching backwards by working on his stuff really,” Dawgs coach Joe Mancini said. “He worked his breaking stuff first, establishing command there, to keep guys off his fastball and bring in his fastball later. He’s working on that because he’s gonna need it when he gets into his high school season.”

Gilligan is a junior at Fairfield Warde in Fairfield, Connecticut. Warde’s baseball program won its second straight CIAC Class LL state championship last spring. 

If Gilligan plans on being a part of Warde’s march to a third consecutive title – and looking forward, part of a college program’s plans – the ability to work backwards has to be part of his repertoire.

“It’s about not throwing fastballs in fastball counts, basically,” Gilligan said. “Like throwing curveballs in 1-0 counts. Getting the hitter off-guard and uncomfortable is what you’re trying to do as a pitcher.”

The Dawgs, based in Fairfield, were the beneficiaries of eight defensive errors committed by 5-Star. The Dawgs batted around in the first inning while scoring five unearned runs. 

The Dawgs added five more runs in the second on five hits and three errors. 

“When that kind of stuff happens it’s a good test, because the good teams keep their noses to the grindstone no matter what the situation is,” Mancini said.

“It gets frustrating when you’re in that kind of game but you keep your foot on the gas and keep competing,” said Dawgs leadoff hitter and shortstop Tyler Harmony, a junior at Canterbury High in New Milford, Conn.

Harmony reached in all three of his plate appearances and scored three times. He singled once and reached on an error twice. 

Nate Jackson, another Fairfield Warde junior, went 2-for-2 with three RBI for the Dawgs. Mike Garofalo, a junior at Fairfield College Prep, singled, drove in two runs and scored twice. Michael Marciano, a New Canaan junior, singled and had two RBI.

Mike Garofalo sparked the Dawgs with a base hit and two RBI.

Carson Dodder, the Dawgs starting shortstop and a Fairfield Warde junior, made the defensive play of the game in the top of the second inning when he charged across the infield after Myles Hester hit a high chopper on the right side of second base. In one motion Dodder barehanded the ball and made a snap throw to get Hester at first.

Mancini said the entire Dawgs roster is basically committed to the recruiting process with eyes focused on playing college ball. Harmony, who committed to Northeastern a day before the Halloween Mash tournament, said it actually helps the team perform when the entire roster has a common goal – other than winning, of course.

“We’re a young team – a lot of 26s – and guys are getting into the recruiting process,” Harmony said. “Guys are grinding every day, trying to get to the next level. It’s good for the team that most of these guys want to play in college. They know what they’re doing and they’re capable of doing good things. Knowing they have my back helps me be a better player.”

The CT Dawgs improved to 2-0 on the day after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Complete Game Colonials 17U Blue, and had an opportunity to seal up a playoff bid against the PPH Mafia 17U on Sunday at 10 a.m. The semifinals begin at 2:15 p.m. and the championship is at 6:30 p.m.

5-Star bounced back from its lopsided loss by grabbing a 6-5 decision over PPH Mafia 17U. 5-Star was set to conclude its pool play against the Complete Game Colonials on Sunday at 10 a.m.

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