By BRIAN JENNINGS
Sixth-seeded Southington managed just four hits in their first test of the state tournament against No. 11 Bristol on Sunday. However, the team’s ace, Nick Borkowski (6-0), bailed the team out again, as he had done for most of the summer.
Borkowski put on his poker face and played his cards right, dealing pitches that Bristol could not manufacture into hits.
“I had my whole arm-ada ready to go, but I chose Nick because he’s been the ace of spades,” said Southington coach Marc Verderame. “I took him out in the last inning so he could pitch on Wednesday, but he got up there and was in a groove. He was phenomenal today, and you can’t say enough about him.”
He may not have registered a single strikeout on the day, but Borkowski only allowed just one hit and one walk over six innings of work and let his defense do the rest. He now has an ERA of 0.49 on the year through 43 innings in the 10 games he’s pitched in.
“My two-seam seemed to be working really well, along with my fastball,” said Borkowski. “I was just hitting my spots, and those first-pitch strikes were really working well. I didn’t have any strikeouts and kids were hitting the ball well, but my defense really saved me.”
Some theories say that you should save your ace or reserve the top pitchers in your rotation for deeper playoff games. But Verderame couldn’t wait.
“John Fontana told me once that you should go out there and win the game,” said Verderame. “Don’t have your best pitcher on the bench if he’s available. So, I went out there and threw my best pitcher. We also have some great guys behind him.”
Post 72 earned a bye in the sectional semifinals and advanced to the regional bracket with a 5-0 victory over Bristol in the sectional finals. The shutout was Southington’s fifth of the season. Bristol reached the finals after beating No. 14 Berlin, 3-2, in a 13-inning contest the previous day.
Verderame said that they used Bristol’ tiring, first-round matchup to their advantage.
“We came in here and jumped on them early, and 3-0 kind of set the tone right there,” said Verderame. “We came out firing, got ahead of those guys, and kept them off the base paths all day. Both teams only had four hits combined, but we got the feeling at 4-0 and were cruising.”
With two outs and the bases loaded in the first inning, Southington wasted no time and jumped out on Bristol early when Josh Panarella put Southington on the scoreboard by bringing in a run after being hit by a pitch. Jonathan Gray extended the lead to two in the next inning with a fly ball that resulted in an outfield error.
Jake Babon broke the game open immediately following with a bases-clearing RBI double that drove in two runs. Dan Topper (2-for-4) capped off the win with a grounder hit to the pitcher that scored a run after an error was made in the sixth.
Bristol finished the game with four errors. Following Borkowski’s stellar start on the mound, Connor McDonough (4-1) came into the game to close with a pair of walks and a strikeout.
Southington will play at No. 3 Avon (19-5) in the first round of the regional bracket on Tuesday, July 18. The game is scheduled to be played at Buckingham Park in Avon at 5:30 p.m. After winning the Zone One Division, Avon received byes throughout the sectional bracket.
“That’s exactly what we wanted,” the coach said. “Avon’s our rival, and we’ve had a good rivalry with them over the years. We’re going to give our best, and we’re excited to be here for sure.”
The sectional bracket consisted of single-elimination contests, but the regional bracket consists of double-elimination contests. Other regional contests include No. 8 West Hartford (17-8) at top-seeded RCP (22-2), No. 7 South Windsor (16-6) at No. 2 Willimantic (21-4), and No. 5 Waterford (22-5) at No. 4 Tolland (16-5).
Post 72 is currently 19-6 overall.
Regular season wrap-up
Southington began the week with two wins over Terryville, followed by a win over Wolcott in the regular season finale.
Josh Panarella gave Southington a 1-0 advantage on Monday after driving in a run on a 6-3 putout in the first inning. With two outs in the same inning, Bailey Robarge (2-for-3) added a couple more runs with a RBI single.
Southington finished with seven hits to score a 5-0 win over Terryville.
Nick Borkowski (5-0) threw his third complete game shutout of the season six strikeouts and justs five hits.
The following day, it was a closer contest but the same final result, a 5-4 Southington win.
Southington held a 2-0 advantage with a pair of runs in the fourth inning until Terryville tied the game with three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth. However, Southington took the lead for good in the sixth.
Mason Dibble got on first base off a Terryville error, and pinch runner Justin Makles rounded the bases to score the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Bailey Robarge (4-2) got Terryville’s first three batters to fly out and ground out twice in the seventh to seal the win.
Robarge allowed six hits, four earned runs, three strikeouts, and one walk in a complete game victory. Brandon Kohl went 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of doubles.
On Wednesday, Southington clinched the second seed in the zone with a walk-off, 3-2 win over Wolcott. Southington had to win out the final three games to clinch second place.
Steven Urbanski put Wolcott on the scoreboard first before Trey Nastri extended Wolcott’s lead to two with a line drive that ricocheted off pitcher Justin Verrilli’s (1-0) leg to chase him from the mound.
Southington mustered just three hits and won the game off a Wolcott error.
Verrilli went 5 1/3 innings with one strikeout, allowing three hits, three walks, and two earned runs. Weed earned the victory with two strikeouts, two walks, and a hit in relief.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/07/19/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-july-21-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.