By BRIAN JENNINGS
High hopes of making a deep run into the 19U state tournament came to an abrupt end on Saturday, July 16 at Zipadelli Field (Sage Park) after the Southington American Legion baseball team came up short, 1-0, to Berlin in extra innings of a first round matchup.
Post 72 was in a tough spot, after starting the regular season with a 1-4 record, but Southington manager Marc Verderame stated that he was proud of his team for battling back.
“It just goes to show you that every game counts,” said Verderame. “If we had won a few of those games earlier, we would have been in a better spot. But the resiliency they showed going 10-1 down the stretch and then losing 1-0 here in heartbreaking fashion is a testament to the kids. They did a great job and I’m proud of them.”
Southington struggled to field a team last season, missing the playoffs, but Verderame said that he thinks Post 72 has a great program going right now.
“I told the kids that I’m expecting great things from them this spring. And it starts now by working out in the summer and fall,” the manager said. “Also, most of the guys from the high school team returned to the legion team. So, there’s a bright future in Southington.”
After 11 scoreless innings and one out in the bottom of the 12th, Berlin loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a double. Ryan Sheehan was on the mound with a 3-1 count against the next batter. The ball slipped out of Sheehan’s hand during the windup of his next pitch, causing a balk, which ultimately walked the batter and sent Berlin to the second round of the sectionals of the state tournament in the North Division.
“That was a hell of a baseball game,” said Verderame. “Ryan Sheehan went out there and threw the best game he’s thrown all summer. I have high hopes for him, and he’s got a bright future. You have to build on this though. He has to build on how well he threw and, he has to build on the tough times too.”
Sheehan finished the game with five strikeouts, six hits, and four walks.
Southington mustered just six hits in the game, but Ryan McIntyre still managed to go 2-for-2 with a double and a walk.
Although Sheehan walked the winning run in, many can say that the game might have been lost in the first inning. Post 72 had runners at second and third off of a single and a double, but failed to score any runs after John Mikosz was called out in a close play at the plate on a fielder’s choice.
“We missed an opportunity in the first inning,” the manager said. “And we’ve preached it all year. In this league, every run counts. And it’s kind of a premonition because we lost 1-0. But I take nothing away from them. They made all the plays.”
And Southington came close again with one out and a runner on base in the top of the eighth when Brayden Cooney hit a deep fly ball to the right field fence. Berlin’s outfielder made the catch while running into the fence.
Post 72 continued an extra-inning game from Thursday, July 7 on Monday, July 11 against Bristol at Muzzy Field. The game was suspended due to lateness, tied at 3-3. But Southington prevailed by tacking on a pair of runs in the 12th inning, 5-4.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Matt Sciota drove in Mikosz on a base hit, and Tyler Cyr scored Jake Babon with an RBI double for insurance. Bristol fell short with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Post 72 finished with 11 hits. Cyr paced Southington by going 3-for-5 with two RBI. Mikosz went 3-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored. Kyle Semmel went 2-for-4 with a RBI, a run scored, and a double. Sciota finished with a RBI and a double, going 2-for-5.
Bailey Robarge started on the mound and went six and a third innings with three strikeouts, seven hits, four walks, and three earned runs. Mikosz was credited with the win after reliving Robarge to throw the next four innings with three strikeouts, allowing just a walk. Sheehan closed to get the save.
A healthy dose on consistent hitting and strong pitching continued the next day when Post 72 defeated Terryville, 5-2, on the road.
Babon put Southington on the board first with a sacrifice fly that scored Cooney in the fourth. Zach Parent gave Southington a 2-0 lead with a RBI single that brought in Sciota to take a 2-0 lead.
However, Southington amassed a 5-0 lead by the seventh after drove in Babon and Sciota with a bases-clearing triple in the sixth. Parent capped off the inning by scoring Cyr with a base hit. Terryville was halted with two runs in the bottom of the seventh.
Both teams finished with nine hits, but Terryville committed three errors in the game. Parent marshaled Post 72 by going 2-for-3. Cooney went 2-for-4 with a double.
AJ Mondo picked up the win on the mound after going four and two thirds innings, allowing six hits and a walk. Cyr closed to earn the save.
Southington wrapped up the regular season on Wednesday, July 13 with a 11-3 triumph at Wolcott, heading into the postseason with a six-game winning streak.
Post 72 built an 8-0 lead by the fourth inning, opening the contest with five runs in the first. Southington outhit Wolcott, 15-7. Wolcott committed three errors in the game.
Sciota went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Sheehan went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Sheehan also batted a double and walked as well.
Cyr went 2-for-4 with a RBI and a run scored. McIntyre went 2-for-5 with two RBI, two runs scored, and a homerun. Babon went 2-for-5 with a RBI and a run scored. Cooney contributed with three runs scored and two RBI.
Robarge received the win after going five innings, surrendering seven hits, three earned runs, and two walks. McIntyre closed.