By John Goralski
Blue Knight coach Charlie Lembo slumped against the wall as a flood of reporters engulfed him in the Middletown dugout.
His Blue Knight baseball team was the last one playing at the high school during one of the most prolific springs in recent history. The Knights led early and were deadlocked, 2-2, with two innings remaining.
Lembo can boast that his seniors are the first Southington graduates that reached the championship game three times during their four year careers, but it didn’t seem to matter to the players or the coach.
For the third time in as many chances, the Knights fell one victory short of a state title. For the second straight season, an Amity upset ended Southington’s postseason rally.
“To be honest with you we came up against a team that was ready to play, and we laid an egg,” said the coach. “We hung around a little while, but I don’t think we did many things well today—offense, defense, or pitching.”
For the second straight year Amity entered the game as the lower seed, but they wasted no time scoring. The leadoff batter singled and came around to score in both the first and second inning, but Southington still managed to enter the third innings tied, 2-2.
The Spartans had base runners in every inning, while Southington was retired in order for three consecutive innings. Still, the game remained knotted, 2-2, until the sixth inning.
“I thought we had a good shot,” said the coach. “You just can’t give extra opportunities to good teams. You can’t give extra outs in innings, but we did that today. I think we buried ourselves and that’s not to take anything away from them. Amity swung the bats great. They didn’t hurt themselves, and they made some nice plays in the field.”
Southington had chances to score with bases loaded in the fifth and again in the sixth, but Amity’s defense escaped both threats. The Knights, however, didn’t fare as well. Kyle Cole held Amity off the board for almost three innings, but left the game in the fifth inning after throwing 97 pitches. Joe Rivera came in for relief, but Amity rallied for six runs over the last two innings.
The Spartans capitalized on an early error and a misplayed ball to score four runs in the sixth inning. With a two run rally in the top of the seventh, they put the game out of reach.
“We didn’t help ourselves, either,” said Lembo. “We had bases loaded a couple of times, but we didn’t get any runs in. I thought our outfield play wasn’t good today…They had their chances, and we had ours, too. We just didn’t come up with any key hits.”
The loss came on the heels of a 6-5 comeback against Fairfield Warde in the semifinals. Southington erased an early 4-1 deficit with runs in each of the last four innings. Ryan DeAngelo paced the comeback, going 3-for-3 with a trio of RBI. Sophomore reliever Drew Farkas drove in two runs, and Brett Shaw drove in another as Southington rallied for five straight scores to take the lead.
“I told the kids to just stay patient,” said Lembo. “We weren’t looking for a grand slam. We were looking to put up one run each inning, maybe two, and look at the board. It was enough to get it done.”
Farkas struck out four batters and scattered two hits over 4 1/3 innings to get the win. He retired the side in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings before allowing his only run of the game in his final inning.
“The last time we brought him in was against East Catholic in our last regular season game,” said Lembo. “He just pounded the zone like he did tonight. That kid’s just a sophomore, but he really gutted it out. This might be the biggest situation that he’s ever been in on the mound. Give him a ton of credit. He also drove in two runs.”
With the semifinal comeback Southington advanced into the championship game for the second year in a row and the third time in four seasons. With the loss to Amity, Southington’s finished the regular season at 20-4.
“This is one game, but it is not a reflection of our season,” Lembo said after the Amity game. “One of the things that I’m going to miss the most is showing up for practice with these guys. This team will never be the same again. They’ll all move on. Some of them will play Legion. Some will play Junior Legion. This will be the last day that this group will be together, and I thought we could have had a better outcome.”
Now, the Knights will regroup for next year’s run.
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By John Goralski