By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
MANCHESTER, July 22 -- Robert Newton came into the 2001 New England Collegiate Baseball League season with some modest goals get some playing time with the Torrington Twisters and get back onto the diamond.
After missing the entire spring campaign at the University of Kentucky with a torn muscle in his left shoulder, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound lefthanded hitter was simply pleased to pull on a uniform again and play when he debuted with the Twisters on June 3 against Concord.
"I'm just trying to knock off the rust for the fall and spring (2002) season," a modest Newton said Sunday.
Newton helped cap off a National Division victory with a two-RBI double in the sixth inning as the National Division ripped 19 hits on its way to a 9-4 victory over the American Division in the 2001 NECBL All-Star Game at Manchester's Northwest Park before 776 fans.
Newton was one of five Twisters in the game. Shortstop Taber Lee went 2-for-5 with a walk, an putout and one assist; first baseman Nate Gold was 2-for-4 with an RBI while second baseman Adam Haley made a nice diving grab of a soft line drive in the eighth and had two putouts.
Twister pitcher Rory Shortell was also on the National Division squad but was one of four National pitchers to sit out the contest. Shortell, who pitched on Thursday in a 4-2 loss to Concord, had a sore shoulder and wanted to rest his arm.
The National Division, comprised of Torrington, Danbury, Keene, Lowell and Concord, not only had 19 hits but had six extra-base hits including home runs from Concord's Brock Koman and Keene's Erik Rico.
Only three home runs had ever been hit out of Northwest Park in NECBL play since the facility opened last year. Only two home runs were hit in the pre-game home run derby both by winner Mike Bohlander of Newport.
"You expect All-Star games to be dominated by pitching," said Twister manager Gregg Hunt, who was the head coach for the National Division. "The hitters dominated on both sides."
The American Division (Middletown, Eastern, Riverpoint, Manchester, Newport) had 10 hits seven in the final four innings.
The All-Star berth was a pleasant surprise to Newton, who was hitting .230 with 26 hits, three doubles and 14 RBI. A first baseman at Kentucky, he has been all over the field for the Twisters. He made the All-Star team as a designated hitter. But has also played left field (10 games), right field (4), center field (1) and first base (8) for Torrington.
"I just want to get out and play the game," Newton said. "The only way to get better is to play and play and play. It's been a great summer."
Newton had a six-game hitting streak and hit doubles in three straight games. He was 3-for-5 with three RBI against Manchester earlier this season and had two hits and two RBI in the second of two games against Team USA.
In 2000 at Kentucky, he hit. 271 in 57 games with 57 hits, seven home runs and 39 RBI.
A RBI single by Gold in the first inning helped the National Division take a 2-0 lead. It was 5-0 after five innings before the National Division took a commanding 8-0 lead on a RBI double from Danbury's Brett McCutchan and Newton's two-RBI double.
ALL-LEAGUE: Lee and Gold were named to the All-NECBL team and earned spots on the NECBL All-Star team that will play the Cape Cod League All-Star team on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Keene.
Lee (.325, 14 stolen bases) and Gold (.313, 5 home runs, 28 RBI) were two of 12 players named to the team. The league coaches will select the remaining 13 players to comprise the NECBL roster.
The other players named to the All-NECBL team were Newport's Eric Winegarden (catcher), Kainoa Obrey (DH), Joel Kirsten (P) and Billy Grasier (OF), Keene's Shaun Larkin (2B), Middletown's Kevin Wissner (3B), Manchester's Reid Gorecki (OF), Danbury's Joe Apothekar (OF), Concord's John Velosky (P) and Riverpoint's Brian Waack (P).
DIAMOND DUST: Danbury's Joe Apotheker, the starting left fielder for the National Division, earned MVP honors by going 3-for-3 with singles off three different pitchers. ... Former Twister Matt Elfeldt, now with Concord, pitched two innings for the National Division, allowing two runs and three hits. But he struck out three, including Manchester's
Mike Dougon with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning. ... Twister Nate Gold was one of 10 players to participate in home run derby but wasn't able to hit a home run. He did hit the fence. ... The Twisters return to action tonight at Keene. Torrington native C.J. Giampaolo will get his first start for the Twisters (24-9). Torrington's magic number to clinch the National Division title and a playoff berth is two. The Twisters could clinch tonight with a win and a loss by Lowell against Riverpoint. Torrington returns home against Newport on Tuesday.