Legion falls short of Zone I title; Post 72 gets edged by Avon in the final week of the season

By John Goralski

Sports Writer

The first game against Avon was an extra-inning contest that began on July 3 and ended on July 12. The second contest saw a 3-0 Southington lead evaporate in a flurry of miscues and errors. Southington posted an 8-4 victory in the third game, but it was too late.

American Legion Post 72 led in all three games. Southington out-scored their Avon rivals, 13-11, over the three game regular season series, but Avon won the one stat that mattered. With a 2-1 advantage in their head-to-head contests, Avon ended Southington’s bid for back-to-back zone titles.

Coach Marc Verderame said that he hopes his team learned a valuable lesson in the loss.

“You can’t have the lead that late and give it up, but I think we’ll learn from that. We know that we can play with a team like Avon. We know that we’re the best team in the zone, and we know we gave it away,” he said. “I told the kids that we’re going to be judged by what happens next.”

Things are heating up for the local Legionnaires. They survived a stretch of 11 games over a 10 day stretch that included a six-game winning streak that matched a season’s best. With one game to go, they’ve already clinched second place in the Zone I Standings. Now comes the fun part.

“I like where we are right now,” said Verderame. “It matters where we’re standing at the end, not how we did in the zone against Avon. I think we have a good team. We’ve got the pitching, and the hitting has been good lately. I’m looking forward to making a run in the playoffs.”

The state tournament is just around the corner, and the locals are poised to make another run. They’ve secured their spot in the state’s top 20 for a berth in the single-elimination sectional tournament. With a second place finish, Southington has earned a bye in the opening round, so they’ll begin with a home game on July 22.

With the zone title, Avon will only need to win once to secure entry into the double-elimination state tournament. Southington will have to win twice, but Verderame said that it’s only a technicality.

“If we can’t win two games to get in, we’re probably not going to be able to win a state tournament anyway,” said the coach. “I think it’s going to be a good test for us and a good chance to erase any doubts that people might have about us.”

Can this team win that elusive second state title and first since 1993? Verderame said that they have the talent, but the coach still has some questions that need to be answered.

Those questions were posed by opponents in the final week of the season:

Terryville

How good is Southington’s depth on the mound?

If Matt Sirois has anything to say about it, Southington has more arms than they can use. On Monday, July 8, the third baseman stepped to the mound for a one-hitter in his American Legion debut. Sirois scattered one hit and one walk over seven innings on the mound, and Southington rallied for a 5-0 win.

“He throws knuckleballs, and it was fun to watch him go to work,” said Verderame. “Nobody could touch him. I don’t think that a lot of teams see knuckleballers, so we might use him later on the mound. It was a special appearance for us, and we took care of business.”

The offense combined for five runs on eight hits. Zac Susi (2-for-3) had multiple hits. Sirois scored a double. Southington scored twice in their first at bat and put the game away with a three-run rally in the sixth inning.

Bristol

Do we depend too heavily on our pitchers to carry the load?

Brett Susi has been nothing short of stellar this summer as one of the aces in Southington’s lineup, but he struggled late in the game on Tuesday, July 9. Susi scattered seven hits over a complete game performance, but he almost squandered a 5-1 lead when Bristol rallied for three runs in the final inning.

“That game was really important for our confidence level,” said Verderame. “Bristol had been beating us up for about 10 years. I don’t think we took a single series for as long as I’ve been in the program. It was important. We got off to a good lead, but we almost gave it up.”

In the end, it was Southington’s power and defense that proved the difference. Dave Palladino (2-for-4) had a double and three RBI. Ted Shaw and Brett Shaw both had doubles. Southington rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a four run lead, and the defense shut down a late threat to clinch the season series with a 5-4 victory.

Torrington

Can the team manufacture runs if needed?

Ted Shaw went 2-for-4, but finished with four steals and four runs scored. Mike Rogalski capitalized on a passed ball to manufacture his second score of the game. Josh Dobratz and Sirois advanced on passed balls and came around to score. Palladino stole a base.

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