By John Goralski
Joe Rivera opened the second inning with a double up the middle. Mike Rogalski drew a walk. Joe Daigle bunted them over, so that Nick Calabrese’s double cleared the bases.
Adam Wilson followed with a hit. Josh Makles scored him with a double, and when the dust settled on the inning, Southington had batted around the lineup to score a 4-0 lead.
Two days earlier, it took seven innings to break NW Catholic’s perfect game. Against Farmington, it took two innings to put the game out of reach.
“The kids responded,” said Blue Knight coach Joe Lembo. “That’s what I was hoping to see. We wanted the kids to play hard yesterday in practice and show up today with a purpose. I thought we did that.”
Southington escaped the week with a 1-1 record. The 7-1 victory in the second game helped ease the pain of a 1-0 loss in the first one. Baseball is a game of streaks and setbacks, and Lembo is still trying to find the right combination on the field.
Meanwhile, the Knights are plugging away at 4-2.
Zac Susi slapped a hard line drive between two infielders and circled first base as it skipped into left field. On Monday, Aug. 21, NW Catholic had retired 19 straight Knights, but Susi’s single put the tying run on the bases.
Indian pitcher John Arel scattered 15 strikeouts over seven innings, including both batters that came to the plate after Susi. The Knights spoiled the perfect game and had a chance to tie, but just couldn’t capitalize.
“You can’t take anything away from their pitcher. He threw a great game, and we couldn’t catch up,” said Lembo. “He had about a thousand Ks. We just couldn’t make the adjustments. We tried to bunt a couple of times, but we couldn’t even get those down.”
What made it worse is that Kyle Cole was matching him on the mound. The Blue Knight hurler struck out five in six scoreless innings. NW Catholic broke the tie in the seventh, but it was after a botched pick-off play at second base.
“That’s what makes this loss even harder,” said Lembo. “We watched Kyle go out there and basically match him. I know the scoreboard said four hits, but they only had two in my mind. He went out and matched him, but we didn’t make the plays behind him. We just didn’t execute.”
The wind seemed to knock a Blue Knight reliever off the mound late in the game. It battered home plate. It whistled across the outfield, but the Knights weren’t fazed at all. On Wednesday, April 23, Southington was on a mission.
“Today was a tough day to play, but it seems like every game so far we’ve had to come out in these sorts of conditions,” said Lembo. “I told the kids that they had to be tough. We talk about that all the time, and I thought they did a great job.”
The Southington pitchers handled the wind. Joe Rivera struck out seven batters in five innings, allowing just two hits. Drew Farkas allowed two hits through one inning, and Austin Bumbera scored a save with a scoreless seventh inning.
The four-run second inning gave the Knights the lead for good. Southington added two runs in the fourth inning and one in the sixth.
Joe Daigle went 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles. Rivera helped his cause, going 2-for-4 at the plate. The bottom half of the lineup accounted for five of the nine Blue Knight hits, and the pitchers did the rest on a tough, blustery day.
“We were contemplating putting rocks in our pitchers’ pockets to get a little more weight on them,” Lembo said with a laugh. “It wasn’t the type of game Joe wants to throw right now, but with the weather it’s the kind of game we need him to throw. We need to keep him healthy.”
Now, the Knights will look to build momentum with their first three game week. First, they’ll face Bristol Central and Hall on the road, but they’ll wrap up the week against Simsbury with their first home night game.
The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.
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