By John Goralski
On Thursday, June 26, Kyle Cole ended a sixth inning threat with a strikeout to end the inning. Avon battled for two runners in the final inning, but Cole and his defense came up with three outs and swarmed onto the Southington field.
Avon entered the game with no losses in the first 10 games of their American Legion baseball season, but Southington Post 72 did what no other team had been able to do.
Nobody knew at the time that this would be the last time that Southington would celebrate all week. Four games against losing programs resulted in four Southington losses. Post 72 improved to 5-2 with the win over Avon, but the boys finished the week under .500 (5-6) for the first time this season.
“It’s been a tough week,” Verderame said after a double-header loss to Unionville on Sunday to stretch the losing streak to four games. “We have a lot to work on, but we haven’t been able to do it. I would love to have a practice, but we haven’t been able to do that since we’re playing every day. We’ll get through it. We have the players, and we have time. It’s not over yet.”
Verderame was hoping that the Avon victory would be the turning point in the early season. Southington was coming off of a 7-4 loss to Terryville on Tuesday, June 24 that seemed to mark a low spot in the young team’s progress. Score keepers credited the defense with two errors; Verderame counted four.
The locals rallied for two runs in their final at bat, but it couldn’t erase the five-run deficit. Mike Rogalski hit a double. Ryan DeAngelo went 2-for-2 with a run batted in, but the offense managed just five hits in the game. It was a sign of things to come.
“I don’t care who you’re playing in this zone. If you make four errors, you’re not going to win,” said the coach. “Terryville has a good squad. They came out here and made the plays. We didn’t. We had that rally at the end, but it was a little too little too late when you have so many errors.”
Those memories were snapped two days later with the victory over Avon (9-1-1). Brett Shaw led off the game with a single and came around to score the winning run. Zac Susi went 2-for-2, and his double in the third inning scored Ryan DeAngelo to give the locals a 2-0 lead.
Cole did the rest. The lefty scattered seven hits over seven scoreless innings to get the win. He struck out nine Avon batters to score his second complete game victory of the early season.
“He has the stuff to go out there and dominate a team, and he really took command today,” said Verderame. “He was really dominant today, and I’m proud of him. We needed to make a statement, so everyone’s now on alert that we’re here.”
That’s when the trouble began. Southington went on the road, and the bats went cold.
Kyle MacLean, Joe Rivera, and Susi were the only ones to earn hits during a 2-0 loss in Torrington. Wolcott erased a 2-0 deficit in the final inning on Saturday with a three-run rally built on a hit and a couple of Southington errors. Unionville never trailed in either game of Sunday’s double header, holding Southington batters to just two runs in two games.
After pounding out 30 runs in their first week, Southington managed just six runs in the second week. At the start of the week, Verderame was worried about shuffling a host of rookie arms into the rotation, but it was the lack of hitting that accounted for the four game skid.
“Our pitching has been good enough to win,” he said. “We’ve only given up about six or seven runs in five games, but we only won one of them. That’s almost unheard of, but we haven’t been able to execute at the plate. Our pitching has been phenomenal. Our starters have gone out there and ran winning races. We just haven’t been able to come through for them because our hitting hasn’t been there.”
Now, the defending Zone I champions will try to get back in the race with another five-game streak over a seven day span. The road trip will continue at Avon and Winsted to start the week. Southington will host Simsbury on Thursday (8 p.m.) but will go back on the road for a Sunday doubleheader in Terryville.
Southington will have to play eight of their next 10 contests on the road. For most teams a rematch against Avon would be no way to begin that stretch, but Verderame said that it’s just what the doctor ordered.
“I challenged them to go on a run,” said the coach. “I told them to keep their heads up, but things have to change. We need to have a winning attitude. Right now, we’re trying to get two hits in one at bat. We’re good enough to beat these teams. We just have to do it.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.