By BRIAN JENNINGS
A couple losses, a couple rainouts, and a couple laughs brought Southington’s (7-15) American Legion season to a close this past week.
Post 72 was scheduled to end their season with a doubleheader against Unionville (7-17) on Friday, July 17. However, both teams agreed to do things a little differently, playing only one game instead of two. Instead of playing the traditional way, the teams traded pitchers to pitch against their own teams.
Adam Wilson pitched the first two innings against his Southington teammates, followed by Justin Makles (2 innings), A.J. Mongo, and Alex LeBlanc (3 innings).
Coaches from both teams joined in on the fun and took at-bats with their team as well. Southington coach Marc Verderame went 2-for-3 in the game with two singles.
“My manager, Chris Nichols, came to me and said, ‘Hey, we talked to Unionville, and we’re both out of the playoff contention,’” said Verderame. “‘Let’s just try to make it fun, have a little scrimmage, let the coaches play, and have a cookout.’ The umpires were square away with it, and it was great. It was a fun time, and it was one of the more fun games that we’ve had. I felt like I was 18 again. All the kids and coaches were into it, and it was something that everyone here won’t forget.”
It didn’t stop there. The umpires even took at-bats at the end of the game. The unconventional game was an experience Southington coach Marc Verderame said he has never seen before in all of his years involved with Southington Legion baseball. As a result, both teams decided to split the games of the scheduled doubleheader, coming away with an official win and an official loss.
Southington began the week against Bristol (17-7) with an 11-1 loss at Muzzy Field in Bristol on Monday, July 13 that only went five innings, due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Southington’s lone run of the game came from Alex LeBlanc on a base hit that drove in Kyle Cole in the top of the second inning. Bristol scored at least one run in all of the five innings except the fourth, including three in the first and six in the third.
John Mikosz started the game on the mound and was given the loss, going two innings with a strikeout and allowing six hits, three earned runs, and a walk. Bristol totaled 15 hits after five innings.
Southington suffered another loss on Thursday at home to Terryville (15-9).
Terryville’s 4-0 lead after the third inning would be too much for Southington. Southington’s three runs in the fourth wouldn’t be enough
Both Tuesday’s game at Torrington (6-17) and Wednesday’s game at Winsted (6-17) were rained out. Southington finished the regular season in sixth place of the 19U Division, 13 games back from Simsbury (21-3) in first place.
“Overall, I think we improved as a team, especially taking better approaches to the plate,” said Verderame. “Early on, we were struggling with the transition from metal to wood bats, but as the season progressed, we got better. We worked on a few things and started hitting the ball more. Even though it didn’t extrapolate to the results on the scoreboard, a lot of guys improved. We’ll take it into next year.”
Although the plate was one area where Southington improved, Verderame said that the mound was an area where the team struggled throughout the season.
“Unfortunately, the pitching never came around,” said Verderame. “I probably asked too much of the guys that weren’t pitchers, throwing them out there just because we didn’t have any real pitching staff. We were throwing guys out there that hadn’t pitched before. When you’re behind the eight ball like that, it catches up to you. We had some success early, but playing every day for two weeks catches up to you, too.”
On the other hand, the Southington Junior Legion team finished their regular season in second place in the Zone 1 junior standings with an 18-6 record, and the team is headed to the state tournament.
Verderame said that he is looking forward to the new guys coming up for next season.
“There’s a lot of talent in the junior program,” said Verderame. “A lot of new kids are coming up and we’ll have some kids return from this team. We’re going to work hard in the offseason and try to get a full-vested team out there for next year so that we can run things properly, instead of scratching and clawing to create lineups on the fly.”
The double-header against Unionville marked the end of the summer season.
“It was a tough year and one of the worst years that we’ve had, but it always darkest before the dawn,” said the coach. “I think this is going to be an outlier season when you look back on it. We’ll be back next year with a lot of good talent coming up. This is a baseball town and it’s going to remain that way.”