By John Goralski
On Friday, Coach Charlie Lembo slumped against the wall in the dugout as if his team had lost, while his players celebrated the 6-4 victory over New Britain.
He shook his head when reporters asked him about his team’s five-game winning streak. This isn’t the sort of reaction one would expect from a varsity coach with an 11-2 record, but Lembo knows that it’s going to get harder as the Knights approach the postseason.
“I’m happy with the record,” he said. “I’m happy with our wins and losses, but I’m really not satisfied with the way we’re playing right now. I really don’t think we’ve reached our potential yet.”
Lembo points to a late start against Simsbury in a 4-2 victory that started the week. He points to the two errors during his team’s 5-1 win over East Catholic, but his biggest worry is the inconsistency of the offense.
It it wasn’t for a pair of timely home runs, the Knights would have had trouble against East Catholic. Then, they scored five runs in the first inning against New Britain and almost watched that lead slip away.
“We’re getting runs, but we’re still not getting that consistency,” he said. “The nice thing is that it seems to be somebody different stepping up each game. If we can get all nine guys in the lineup to swing their bats well at the same time, it’s going to be a pretty good game.”
On Monday, the Knights needed a late rally to steal a win against Simsbury. On the mound, Joe Rivera scattered 10 strikeouts with just five hits over a seven-inning complete game, but Southing-ton still trailed, 2-1, in the top of the sixth inning.
The Knights rallied for runs in three of the last four innings. Brett Susi set the stage with a two-out single in the top of the fourth inning, and he came around to score on hits by Justin Rose and Dave Palladino.
Brett Shaw scored Rose and Palladino with a two run double in the sixth inning, and Ted Shaw (3-for-4) gave the Knights an insurance run in their final at bat.
Two days later, the Knights were opportunistic again. Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, Matt DiNello answered with a three run homerun. Matt Sirois added a solo homer in the sixth inning, and Susi did the rest.
Susi surrendered a run in the first inning but countered with seven strikeouts and four hits over six scoreless innings to get the win.
“We’re not going to survive very long playing this way,” said Lembo. “Brett Susi pitched a great game. We were lucky that Matty DiNello got that big three-run homer. That made the difference.”
On Friday, Southington continued to struggle at the plate. The Knights scored five times before New Britain was able to secure their second out, but Southington only managed to score one more time the rest of the way.
The Hurricanes clawed back with eight hits and just four strikeouts against Andrew Goralski, but the senior hurler managed to secure the win. DiNello (2-for-3) was the only Knight to secure two hits in the game, including a leadoff triple in the third inning that resulted in Southington’s final run.
“I give their pitcher credit because he actually got more effective as the game went on,” said Lembo. “Andrew didn’t have his best stuff today, but he gutted it out. That’s why I kept him in there. I want our pitchers to not want to come out of a game. I want that competitiveness, and he showed it in the last couple of innings. We just stopped hitting after those early runs.”
Will the trend continue? Will the Knights find their rhythm at the plate? With games against Newington (7-6), Conard (9-4), and NW Catholic (11-3) this week, Lembo is sure to find out.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.