By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knights (8-2) played the roles of both spoilers and comeback kids this past week as three hard-fought wins helped them accomplish one of their first goals: make the postseason as fast as you can. And two of those three wins came in dramatic fashion on back-to-back, walk-off hits.
Leaping over Lions
Southington put the finishing touches on a seven-game road trip with a 6-1 victory over NW Catholic (8-2) on Monday. Southington snapped NWC’s seven-game win streak, handing them their first loss of the season.
The Knights took a 4-0 lead off of two singles, a triple, and a home run and scattered runs in the fourth and seventh innings. The Lions scored their only run in the fifth.
Tyler Cyr went 2-for-3 with a RBI, a run scored, a double, a triple, and a walk. Garrett Gugliotti went 2-for-4 with a RBI and run scored. John Mikosz’s only hit of the game was a two-run home run.
Drew Farkas picked up the win, scattering six strikeouts, six hits, and five walks over six innings.
Two for the price of one
The Knights won their first home game a couple days later in a 5-4 come-from-behind triumph over Farmington (5-6).
The Indians broke open the scorebook first with a three-run home run in the opening inning, but Southington cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the third.
Trailing, 4-3, with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Mikosz, Jonathan Gray, and Kyle Bunko loaded the bases. Then Ryan McIntyre stepped up to the plate.
McIntyre methodically worked the pitcher into a full count and belted a two-seam fastball over the center fielder’s head that hit the fence on one bounce, scoring Mikosz and Gray to secure the win for the Knights. McIntyre’s walk-off double was his only hit of the game.
“I was looking for a fastball I could drive on the first pitch,” said McIntyre. “But later in my at-bat when the count got full, I just took my time and a deep breath. Really, all I did was just put the bat on the ball. It felt really good off the bat, and I saw it go over his head.”
Gray went 2-for-2 with two RBI, a run scored, and a walk. Gugliotti went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Gugliotti pitched six innings for the Knights, throwing four strikeouts and allowing seven hits, four earned runs, and two walks. Krochko was credited with the win after closing out the game with two strikeouts.
Another walk-off win
Bristol Central became the next victim of Southington’s last-minute heroics, as the Knights edged out the Rams in another come-from-behind victory, 3-2, on Friday.
The Knights found themselves down by a pair of runs in the fourth. Following a scoreless fifth inning, the Knights tied the contest, 2-2, after McIntyre scored Gray on a fielder’s choice and Makles drove in Cooney on a base hit.
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Gray made it to first base on an error committed by the third baseman, and stole second base moments later. Krochko brought Gray home on a walk-off single up the middle of the infield.
“I couldn’t be real nervous because I had to keep my head in the whole game,” said Krochko. “I’m not going to lie, at first I was swinging for the fences a little. But then I had to calm myself down.”
Krochko said that Bristol Central’s pitcher almost got him on a curveball with two strikes. Krochko fouled off the curveball though, lining the next pitch, a fastball, right past second base.
“I was listening to my coach in the dugout tell me to shorten my swing, and that’s what I did,” said Krochko. “I just put my head down, looked for the best place to hit it, and got the bat on the ball.”
Ryan Sheehan pitched a complete game for the Knights, throwing five strikeouts and allowing six hits, five walks, and two earned runs. Sheehan’s threw 101 pitches in the game, but his pitch count was at 95 when Southington coach Charlie Lembo walked out to Sheehan on the mound with two outs and two runners on in the top of the seventh.
“I was ready to take Ryan out, but he said, ‘I want this guy,’” said Lembo. “When he says it to me that confidently, I say okay go get ‘em. And he threw a good game and got him. That gave us the opportunity to just need that one run.”
The Knights earned a spot in the Class LL state tournament with their win over Bristol Central and as Lembo explained, the team can start focusing on their next goal.
“Our next goal is to win as many conference games as we can, and try to win the conference,” said Lembo. “We have some injuries and are a little banged up right now, but it’s the next guy up. Guys will hopefully step up and get the job done.”
Southington is currently ranked seventh in the CIAC’s Class LL rankings.