A season on the brink; Legion is one win away from the state finals

Susi earned the start, and rebounded with a six-hit, one-run performance over seven innings before turning the ball over to Andrew Goralski for a two-inning save. Susi kept New London off balanced with his fastball and curve.

“We made the plays today. We had a great game from Brett Susi, and I’m so proud of him—especially after the other day,” said Verderame. “He’s struggling as of late, but he’s my guy. I gave him the ball, and I had all the faith in the world in him. He pitched great today.”

Southington scored four runs on nine hits. DiNello and Dave Palladino scored. Palladino drove in two runs with a double, and Southington advanced into the winner’s bracket with a 4-1 win. Brett Shaw scored twice for the Knights. He drew a one-out walk in the first inning to start a three-run rally and drove a ball over left center field in the fifth inning to end New London’s hopes.

“We have a tendency to score early and kind of lag around and sit tight,” said Verderame. “Brett Shaw came up with a big hit, and that kind of restored our life a little bit. We got that pick-off at second, and that was big. We kept the momentum going.”

Shaw said that he approached the plate, looking for a ball to hit on the first pitch “His fastball was really hittable. I knew I could hit it, but my second at bat disappointed me,” he said. “I went up there knowing that I was going to get a hit. I didn’t know that I would get a homerun, but I knew that I was getting a hit.”

The victory advanced the locals into the winner’s bracket with a second round contest against Zone 6 champion Montville. Once again, Southington sped out to an early lead but Montville rallied for four runs in their first three at bats and they capped the rally by stealing home to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third inning. It was Southington’s first deficit in the postseason, but the locals responded with four straight hits to spark a four-run rally in the next inning to take the lead for good.

“I huddled them up and told them that we’ve been here so many times before, and I believe in them,” said Verderame. “I thought that those games against Avon and Bristol when we had some tough times served us well. We’ve been in this situation before. We’ve been there. I don’t think that Montville has been down much this year. We punched them in the mouth a little bit.”

Craig Frobel scattered seven strikeouts and five hits over seven innings to get the win, and Rivera struck out three in two innings of scoreless relief. Southington put the game out of reach in the top of the eighth inning when Montville walked DiNello to load the bases and Andrew Goralski looped a three-run double to right-center.

Southington cruised to a 10-5 win to push Montville into the loser’s brackets. Enfield edged Montville, 3-2, on Monday to earn the other regional berth. The series began on Tuesday with Southington (2-0) coming off a day of rest and Enfield (2-1) with no room for error.

“This is huge,” Frobel said after the win. “We don’t have to play tomorrow, so we have a day off. Then, we come back on Tuesday and we have Joe Rivera and we still have Goralski and Susi. I can throw an inning, and the other team is going to have nobody left. That’s what hurt us last year. We ran out of pitching.”

That’s no longer a problem.

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@southingtonobserver.com.

By John Goralski Joe Rivera winds up for a pitch during a state tournament game last week.

By John Goralski

Joe Rivera winds up for a pitch during a state tournament game last week.

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