By John Goralski
Charlie Lembo said that he’s never worried about a loss. That’s why he embraces such a tough regular season schedule. It’s the way his team responds to a loss that concerns the Southington coach.
That’s why Lembo had a hard time suppressing his smile when he welcomed visitors into the Plainville dugout after a 4-0 win over the defending Class M champions.
The Knights began the week with their first loss of the season, but they responded with two of their best defensive efforts. Brett Susi scored his first varsity no-hitter in a 7-0 win over Newington, and Joe Rivera came one hit short of matching him against Plainville.
Southington improved to 4-1 overall.
“I wish we would start scoring a little earlier in the game to put some pressure on the other teams,” said Lembo. “Maybe if we could get more baserunners, we can do more things like hit and run, bunting, or stealing. I think it’s going to come around.”
The Berlin Wall
Andrew Goralski went 4-for-4 with a pair of RBI. Matt Sirois scored two hits in four attempts, and Ted Shaw scored twice. On Monday, April 8, Southington batters went 7-for-14 (.500) at the top of the order, but the rest of the lineup combined for just one hit.
Berlin took a two-run lead in the top of the fifth inning and held on for a 3-2 win.
“Their guy threw a great game. He kept us off balance. He got ahead with his fastball, and he spotted his curveball up,” said Lembo. “I don’t think that there was any glaring weakness. I just thought their guy did an excellent job on the mound, and we didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to make.
The defense did enough to win. Joe Hayes scattered four hits and four strikeouts over as many innings, and Kyle Cole pitched three innings of scoreless relief.
Both teams managed to get eight hits apiece, but Berlin scored twice in the fourth and once in the fifth. Meanwhile, Southington left 11 runners on base.
“It’s still early. We’re still working guys into the lineup, and we’re still working guys to see what they can do,” said Lembo. “I think we’ve had a different batting order every game. We’ve got to start getting production from the bottom of our order, but I’m not really that concerned about anything.”
Stopped by Susi
Two days later, Brett Susi found the answer. In seven innings, only one person reached base on the Southington ace. When dust settled on the seventh inning, Susi came within one base-runner of a perfect game.
Susi needed just 78 pitches to get the win. Susi scattered seven strikeouts over seven innings to get a 7-0 victory. It was his first no-hitter as a Blue Knight varsity pitcher and Southington’s third no-hitter in as many years.
“A no-hitter is always special, but he also had a perfect game going through five and two thirds,” Lembo said. “He walked the No. 9 hitter on a 3-2 count, and I think that was the only hitter that he kind of lost the zone with. it was just a great outing, but we played really good defense behind him with 15 or 16 ground balls.”
Southington batters combined for 14 hits in the game, but it took a 4-0 rally in the sixth innning to put the game out of reach.
Dave Palladino and Susi powered the offense with two doubles apiece. Justin Rose went 4-for-4 with a run and two RBI. Goralski went 3-for-4, and Sirois (2-for-3) had a double and four RBI.
Rollin’ on the Rivera
Joe Rivera continued the hot trend on Saturday as he outlasted Plainville in a pitching duel. The Blue Devils reached base on a first inning error and a one-out hit in the third inning as Rivera waited for Southington’s offense.
Rivera scattered one hit and 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings as the Knights rallied to a 4-0 win.
“I give Plainville a lot of credit. They battled the whole game,” said Lembo. “Their pitcher kept our guys off-balance. We hit some balls really hard at people. They hit some balls really hard at people. That’s a good baseball game.”
The game was knotted, 0-0, into the top of the sixth inning before Southington’s bats came alive. Ted Shaw started the rally with a two-out double and scored off Sirois’ single. Goralski reached on a weak single, and DiNello cleared the bases with a double to center. Rose scored another run in the top of the seventh, and the Knights held on for a 4-0 victory.
Shaw (2-for-4) was the only Knight with multiple hits, but ended Plainville’s bid for a no-hitter with eight hits in the final two innings. With the win, Southington improved to 4-1 overall.
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