By BRIAN JENNINGS
After beginning the season with a 1-3 record, the Southington American Legion baseball team has lost just one game since.
Post 72 has won nine of its last 10 games without dropping a single contest this past week, jumping up to third place behind Avon (10-1) and Bristol (8-3) in the Zone One Division.
One area of the game that Southington has been excelling at lately comes on the base paths. Already through 14 games, Post 72 has a total of 55 stolen bases, which tops Zone One. Dan Topper currently leads the team with 12 stolen bases.
“Almost every coach I’ve talked to had almost half as many,” said Southington coach Mark Verderame. “They play old school ball and don’t steal like us. We scrap around, the kids have come up with clutch hits, and we’ve executed the steals and the bunts in these close games we’ve won.”
There’s no question that most of Southington’s games have been close this season. Out of the 14 games they’ve played, nine of those contests have been decided by three runs or less.
But that’s not the only proximity Southington has experience this season. The players on this team have been close with one another on the field as well.
“They play together probably as well as any team I’ve ever coached,” the coach said. “It’s almost like a brotherhood. They all know each other and are very cordial together. They’ll go on their and do drills and hit at the field during off hours.”
Verderame said that he certainly doesn’t have the same feeling with this team that he had with the team in 2013, which was the last time Southington made an appearance in the state final, because he knew what he had with that 2013 team. However, after dealing with such instances as a slow start and multiple come-from-behind wins with two outs in the final inning, this year has almost been better with an adventure every week, and he’s loved every step of the challenge.
There’s a parallel here. The 2013 team finished with 125 steal in 31 games, and this team is on pace for that mark. In other words, the potential is there for another state run.
“In the playoff format, it goes to nine innings,” said Verderame. “If any team can handle the nine-inning marathon, it’s us because we have so much pitching, and the bats are starting to come around. I wouldn’t be afraid to play anyone at this point.”
Southington will look to continue its winning streak this week with games against Terryville (1-9-1), Wolcott (6-6), and Torrington (2-11). Post 72 is currently 10-4 overall and one and a half games back of Avon.
Win vs. Winsted
JUNE 21—Southington mustered just two hits, but Nick Borkowski (3-0) was brilliant on the mound, helping Post 72 record its second shutout on the year with a 2-0 blanking of Winsted at home. Borkowski threw a complete game shutout with three strikeouts, allowing eight hits and two walks.
Not only is Borkowski the only Southington pitcher without a loss this season, but he is also the only Southington pitcher that holds an ERA of 0.00 through 19 innings of work.
“We’ve been looking for an ace, and he’s really been the guy for us with Ryan Sheehan having arms issues and John Mikosz not playing,” said Verderame. “Bailey Robarge has been great, but Borkowski has been superb.”
Following singles by Josh Panarella and Kyle Semmel with two outs in the fifth inning, Mason Dibble drove them in on an infield error.
Win at Bristol
JUNE 22—Post 72 earned its second-straight win after edging Bristol by a run, 6-5, on the road the next day.
With the game tied at 3-3 after the fourth inning, Jake Babon and Dan Topper got on base with a walk and bunt in the fifth. With two outs, Jake Weed gave Southington a two-run lead after driving in Babon and Topper with a base hit. Bristol knotted the score at 5-5 with a run off a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning, eventually sending the contest into extra innings.
With one out in the eighth, Brandon Kohl hit an infield fly ball, but Bristol’s third baseman could not make the catch. Kohl advanced to third base on a pair of steals and scored the game-winning run on a passed ball.
“That’s a playoff type of atmosphere,” said Verderame. “We’ve had three or four games so far where we’ve either come back in the last inning or won in extra innings that really makes or breaks a season. It’s the fight and will to win that these guys have.”
Justin Verilli allowed two runners to get on base in the bottom of the inning, but managed to get the save by forcing Bristol to fly out and strike out to end the game. Connor McDonough (2-1) started on the mound and picked up the win after going seven innings with a strikeout, allowing four hits, two walks, and an earned run.
Southington finished with 10 hits and two errors. Bailey Robarge went 3-for-4 at the plate with a run scored. Mason Dibble went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored.
JUNE 25—Post 72 remained hot by rounding out the week without a loss, earning its fourth-straight win with a pair of victories in a doubleheader against Unionville at home on Sunday.
Southington recorded its third shutout of the season by blanking Unionville, 4-0, in game one. Southington scored all four of its runs in the third inning.
With no outs and the bases loaded, Josh Panarella put Southington on the board by drawing a walk. Bailey Robarge drove in two more runs with an RBI double.
An out later, Brandon Kohl loaded the bases with a walk, and Jake Weed capped off the win with a ground ball to the third baseman that brought in Panarella on an error.
Southington mustered just five hits. Brayden Cooney went 3-for-3 at the plate with a run scored, a double, and a walk.
Robarge (2-1) started on the mound and picked up the win after going six innings with a pair of strikeouts, allowing three hits and a walk. Weed closed.
Game two was a much tighter contest, but Southington managed to edge Unionville by a run, 4-3. Southington held a 1-0 advantage until Unionville took the lead with three runs off a wild pitch and an infield error in the fifth.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning, Jake Babon cut the deficit to one by drawing a walk. As the next batter, Kohl drew another walk to knot the score at 3-3.
Panarella led off the sixth and advanced to first on an infield error. Jonathan Gray (2-for-3) drove in Panarella for the go-ahead run with a base hit.
Southington finished with seven hits and two errors. Dan Topper went 2-for-4 at the plate with a RBI and a run scored.
Vinny Viturale (2-1) started on the mound and picked up the win after going five innings with four strikeouts, allowing three hits and two walks. Justin Verilli closed to get his second save of the season.
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