SKOWHEGAN — To kick off the New England Cal Ripken 11-year olds baseball tournament, Skowhegan’s tournament organizers put together a skills competition Friday afternoon at the Carl Wright Baseball Complex. Players competed to see who had the most accurate throws, who ran the bases the fastest, who was the best bunter, and which team could throw the ball around the horn the fastest.

Of course, the main event was the home run derby. Baseball fans of all ages love to hit dingers and watch them fly.

Volunteer Rob Bolduc served as the home run derby master of ceremonies. Carrying his microphone on the field, Bolduc was more game show host than public address announcer, and he kept the mood light and upbeat. Each of the eight teams playing in the tournament was allowed two players in the home run derby. Each swing was either a home run, or an out. A player’s turn was over when he made eight outs. Each hitter could choose his pitcher, although each went with his respective coach. With the fence 200 feet from home plate to all fields, hitting one out wasn’t an easy shot for an 11-year old.

Cam Ginnetti of Marlboro, Massachusetts went first. After two ground balls, it looked like Ginnetti had a homer with his third swing, but the ball ricocheted off the chain link fence in left field, staying in the park.

“I was kind of mad,” Ginnetti said about the near miss. “I just like hitting the ball.”

A few minutes later, Austin Hunt, Ginnetti’s Marlboro teammate, hit the day’s first home run, a shot to center field.

“It’s got a chance!” Bolduc shouted into the microphone. “It’s gone!”

Scottie Brown of Chelmsford, Massachusetts soon followed and set the tone for the contest. Brown hit four home runs, including a line drive that just cleared the center field fence.

“It felt good off the bat. It’s fun,” Brown said. One of the early competitors, Brown had to wait patiently to see if more than a dozen others could match or best his four dingers.

Nobody could, although a few players hit some pretty good shots. With one out to go, Skowhegan’s Simon Lewis hit a long homer to left field. Julian Pabst of Oxford, Connecticut went deep to center. Pepperell, Massachusetts’ Rocco Lamonica, at around 5-foot-10 by far the biggest player in the competition, hit a pair of high shots to left center that elicited an “oohhh” from the crowd usually reserved for fireworks.

While Brown was the winner, there was a three-way tie for second place between Lamonica, Colby Goldrupp (also of Pepperell) and Connor Johnson, of Freetown-Lakeview, Massachusetts. The trio had a playoff, with five outs each this time. Goldrupp took second, with Johnson winning third.

The New England Cal Ripken tournament begins on Saturday and runs through Thursday, with all games at the Carl Wright Baseball Complex.

When the games count, the home runs will be met with even more applause.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM