By John Goralski
The previous week culminated in a 20-run performance, but Southington couldn’t buy a run at the start of last week. The Blue Knight baseball team rebounded from a tight loss riddled with errors with a pair of opportunistic shutouts.
At 8-2, the Knights have continued a streak of postseason appearances that stretches well into the last millennium, but Coach Charlie Lembo is still waiting for this year’s Knights to find their rhythm.
“It’s high school baseball, so consistency’s the issue,” said the coach. “Right now, the only place we’ve been consistent is on the mound. We’re not having the most consistent approaches at the plate, and I think we need to get better at that if we want to reach some of our other goals.”
This week highlighted Southington’s inconsistencies. The only thing that’s been dependable so far has been the pitching.
On Monday, Joe Rivera scattered two hits over six innings, but NW Catholic capitalized on three Southington errors to manufacture a 2-1 win. One game after scoring 20 runs, Southington’s bats went cold.
“We were hitting the ball hard but right at people, and we made three errors which gave them both their runs,” said Lembo. “Joe Rivera pitched a great game. Their leadoff hitter got a clean base hit, and their only other hit was a wind-blown single between our infield and our outfield. He deserved a better fate than he got. We left runners in scoring position in all seven innings. We had a guy thrown out at the plate. We doubled off on a line drive. It was just one of those days.”
Ted Shaw and Brett Susi both went 2-for-3 with a double, and Brett Shaw scored Southington’s only other hit with a double in the third inning. Matt Sirois drove in Ted Shaw in the top of the fifth inning, but the uncharacteristic lapses on defense led to Southington’s first conference loss.
Two days later, Southington rebounded in Farmington with a four-run rally in the first inning. Matt DiNello reached base with one out. Five consecutive batters reached base with two outs, and DiNello, Andrew Goralski, Susi, and Justin Rose scored.
Once again, the Knight offense went dry as they stranded runners in scoring position in four of the next six innings. The defense stumbled once but secured the win with the team’s fourth shutout of the season. Susi scattered six hits and five strikeouts over seven innings to get the decision.
“The defense was the difference,” said Lembo. “We scored those four runs in the first inning, and Susi pitched a good game.”
On Friday, it took another strong pitching performance, but this time the offense rallied for the victory. Goralski allowed just two hits and overcame four Southington errors to secure the team’s fifth shutout with four strikeouts in six innings. Kyle Cole pitched a scoreless seventh inning, but it took Dave Palladino’s home run in the bottom of the third inning to spark an 8-0 rally for the Knights.
“Andrew pitched a really good game that kept it close, and Palladino’s homerun just gave us momentum. It changed the game,” said Lembo. “They had a young kid on the mound, a sophomore, but he did a really good job. You could see him getting more confidence, so when we were able to nick him there I thought our bats would come around. Hitting is contagious.”
Southington rallied for eight runs on seven hits. Susi went 2-for-3 to lead the way. DiNello, Sirois, and Palladino drove in two runs apiece. DiNello and Rivera had extra base hits, and Southington secured a postseason berth with 10 games remaining.
“It’s great to get eight,” said Lembo. “It gets us into the state tournament, and that’s our first stated goal every year. We have a few more goals that we’ll hopefully be able to knock off as the season goes on…Our goal is to win every game in front of us. We have the ability in this dugout with this team to hit, to pitch, to play defense, and win.”
Lembo is just waiting for them to do all three at once.
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