By BRIAN JENNINGS
For the third year in a row, a series of postseason wins have driven Amity and Southington into a big-game match-up. Only this time, it’s in the semifinal.
The No.7-seed Blue Knights baseball team (18-5) find themselves in familiar territory after winning their first three games of the Class LL State Tournament in three consecutive days to now meet up with No.14-seed Amity (16-7) in a rematch of the last two Class LL championship games.
Will this be the season that Southington finally topples Amity in their quest for a Class LL title?
The Knights started the postseason off by hosting No.26-seed Manchester in a 9-0 shutout win on Wednesday, June 3.
Brett Shaw went 4-for-4 with three runs, two doubles, and an RBI. Kyle DeAngelo went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI and one run. Ryan DeAngelo scored three runs, and Zac Susi had a double.
“I thought he did a really good job,” said Southington coach Charlie Lembo. “The only time he struggled was when he fell behind in counts. I thought he controlled their running a little bit too with his quickness to the plate and varying his looks. He kept them off balance so they couldn’t establish a running game.”
Drew Farkas pitched six innings on the mound for the Knights and threw six strikeouts and four walks against 22 batters, allowing four hits. Shaw closed out the game and allowed just one hit and one walk.
“We told them all week that when you put on that Southington Blue Knights baseball jersey, it’s tournament time,” said Lembo. “It’s time to pick it up a notch, and I thought they did a great job. We got out and put a couple runs up in the early innings and then just started hitting the ball.”
The Knights moved on to the second round the following day where they hosted CCC West Division opponent and No.10-seed Simsbury (16-6) to claim their second shutout win, 5-0.
“I kept telling them, ‘Get me that crooked number this inning, guys,’” the coach said. “I thought we had them on the ropes, but they held in there. You have to give them a lot of credit…They didn’t give us anything.”
Adam Wilson went 2-for-3 with a RBI and a run. John Mikosz went 2-for-3 with a double. Garrett Gugliotti went 2-for-4 with a run. Liam Scafariello had a double.
Susi only had one hit in the game, but that one hit batted in two runs when he was down 0-2 on the count at the plate in the bottom of the fifth. Susi’s hit went right down the middle for the team’s fifth run.
“That fifth run is a big run in baseball,” said Lembo. “It was huge.”
Austin Bumbera pitched a complete game and threw two strikeouts and three walks, allowing four hits.
“He had a little bit of trouble with his command earlier in the game, but we got him focused on getting ahead and staying ahead,” the Knights coach said. “I think he mixed up his pitches really well today, and we played pretty good defense. We made some nice plays. When he went five pitches to get out of the sixth, I thought that was key. He was up around the mid-80s in his pitch count at that point, but we were probably going to let him go 110 or 115 today.”
On Friday, the Knights welcomed No.15-seed Stamford to their home dirt where three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning would be enough to score a 3-1 win.
Shaw went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI and a double. Wilson went 2-for-4. Gugliotti pitched a complete game on the mound for the Knights and threw one strikeout, allowing eight hits one earned run.
“Garrett pitched a great game,” said Lembo. “He started throwing to contact. In the beginning of the game, he was looking to maybe put it by guys and maybe be a little too fine, but we just told him, ‘Switch your pitch contact. We have pretty good defense behind you.’”
And the Knights came through with their second straight errorless game in the postseason. Stamford scored first with a run in the top of the second, but the Knights held them scoreless the rest of the way to give their offense a chance to score the win.
“If we’re going to keep getting chances, we’re going to come through,” said Lembo. “We have guys in our lineup that are too good not to come through. They don’t give up and they’ve learned how to deal with it.”
The Knights will play Amity in the semifinal on Wednesday at Muzzy Field in Bristol. If they win, Southington will face the winner of Norwalk-Staples at Palmer Field in Middletown on Friday or Saturday.
Note: Shaw and Susi will be playing their fourth semifinal game in their high school careers.