By John Goralski
Charlie Lembo sauntered out to his baseball team waving two game balls in his right hand and a smile beaming across his face. Storm clouds were already gathering in the Wednesday night sky.
Southington’s four-game marathon would be cut short with the impending rains, but for the third time in as many days Lembo’s Knights had battled their way to a lopsided win.
He tossed the balls at the two top performers before hurling praise at each one of his varsity players.
“I hope that the guys are having fun with this kind of experience. This is like playing college baseball,” said the coach. “We have four games in a row, and you have to be mentally tough. It’s not just physical. You have to take care of yourself, eat right, and hydrate. It’s all about managing time, but it’s a fun experience. Most of these guys aspire to be college baseball players, and this is going to get them ready for it.”
The three-game stretch was the first major test for the young Knights as they continue to get ready for their annual postseason run. Most of last year’s Class LL runner up squad has been lost to graduation, but the Southington team hasn’t missed a step.
They opened the week with a 12-2 win over Newington. On Tuesday, they scored a 13-7 road victory over Hall. With an 8-3 non-conference victory over Maloney on Wednesday, Southington improved to 9-2 overall.
The Knights have already secured a postseason berth. With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, they are tied for second place in the Class LL rankings and are holding onto the top spot in the conference standings.
It’s a new year, but the same old Knights.
“We’re doing well,” said Lembo. “Up and down the lineup, we are getting contributions from a lot of different spots.”
On Monday, Southing-ton started the game with a 7-run rally in the opening inning. Garrett Gugliotti (2-for-5) led off the game with a double and Southington sent 12 batters to the plate as they broke open the game before Newington even had a chance to hit.
“We had a 7-0 lead last Monday at Bristol Central, and that turned into a 10-9 game with the winning run on second base with two outs in the seventh,” Lembo said. “I kept reminding these guys that we’ve seen this before. I told them to take care of business, and we did.”
It helped that Joe Rivera knifed through the Newington lineup with seven strikeouts, a walk, and just four hits over six innings. Austin Bumbera struck out two in a perfect seventh inning, and Southington held off Newington, 12-2.
Josh Makles went 2-for-2 with three runs scored. Ryan DeAngelo (2-for-2) scored twice, and the Knights combined for 12 runs on nine hits.
The offense carried into the next day’s contest as Southington rallied for 13 runs in a see saw battle at Hall. Southington took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the third inning, fell behind 7-6 by the start of the sixth inning, but regained the lead for good with a six-run rally in the sixth.
The bottom of the order came through with the 7-8-9 hitters combining for six of Southington’s 11 hits. Zach Susi (3-for-3) scored twice and drove in two runs. Brett Shaw went 3-for-4 with three RBI, and Joe Daigle (2-for-4) was the only other multi-hit player for the Knights.
On the mound, Drew Farkas, Jake Molgano, Kyle Cole, and Joe Daigle combined for the win. Farkas allowed five hits over 3 2/3 innings but left the game with a 5-4 lead. The Knights out-scored Hall 8-3 down the stretch.
“It was nice to see our kids come back from a little bit of adversity,” Lembo said about the comeback rally. “Adam Wilson led it off with a walk, and we just exploded. Brett Shaw had a little bit of a coming out party with a triple, a single, and a big two-run homerun. The game was a lot closer than it looks, but we hung in there.”
The final game was a mixture of solid pitching and timely hitting. Austin Bumbera struck out five batters with four hits and four walks over six innings to get the win, and Daigle pitched the final inning as the Knights held on for an 8-3 win over Maloney.
Liam Scafariello (3-for-3) powered the offense with two home runs and five RBI. DeAngelo (2-for-2) and Rivera (HR) scored twice. Shaw went 2-for-4 as Southington batters combined for 10 hits.
“We played pretty well defensively,” said Lembo. “We made some good plays in the outfield, and it was just a good game overall. That’s a pretty good team.”
Now, the Knights will look to improve their standing with conference games against Conard (4-7) at home and NW Catholic (7-5) and Farmington (5-7) on the road.