By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Blue Knight baseball team clinched a playoff berth, got a taste of a minor league ball park, and didn’t commit more than two errors…all in the same week. More importantly, Southington coach Charlie Lembo said that his team is getting there.
“I would have liked for us to have started the week a little better, but we’re starting to play better defensively,” said Lembo. “We still have a lot of work to do, and we’re moving forward with it. Hopefully, we can get on a roll and go into the state tournament on a high note.”
Over the past couple of weeks, new underclassmen have been thrown into the varsity lineup, and catchers have been swapped at the plate. Although the Knights went 2-1 in one of their most productive weeks on the season and ended an inconsistent streak of losing every other game they played for the past 10 outings coming into last week, Lembo said that he’s still searching for the team’s most productive lineup on both sides of the ball.
“I’m still trying to get guys more playing time,” said Lembo. “We’ve brought up a number of younger guys just to get them that experience. We’re trying to find the right formula, and I’d like to see everyone contribute.”
The Knights (8-8) will look to fight for better seeding in the state tournament this week with contests against divisional Conard (10-5), NFA (5-11), and divisional Hall (4-11).
Loss at Simsbury
MAY 7—The Knights began the week on Monday with their eighth loss of the season, falling, 5-2, to Simsbury at Memorial Park.
The Trojans scored four of their five runs in the opening inning off of three hits, including a double, and a wild pitch. They capped off the win with a run in the sixth, as neither team committed an error.
The Knights mustered just five hits and were only able to bring runners in once with the bases loaded three times in the fourth and fifth innings combined. In the fourth, Bryce Worth scored Andrew Paradis on a double, and Kyle Leifert scored Justin Verilli by drawing a walk with bases loaded. Dylan Chiaro went 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of doubles.
Jeremy Mercier (4-2) started on the mound and received the decision after pitching two thirds of the first inning, allowing four hits, four earned runs, and three walks. Verilli (1-0), Jason Krar (1-2), and Ryan Henderson (1-0) saw some action on the mound.
Win vs. Avon
MAY 9—Kyle Leifert (2-for-4) helped the Knights bounce back from Monday’s loss a couple days later by ending their two-game skid. His walk-off RBI single in the eighth inning edged Avon by a run, 3-2, at home, which was Southington’s third extra-inning contest of the season.
Dan Topper stole home on a wild pitch in the third, and after leading the fourth off with a double, Mercier (2-for-4) eventually came around to give the Knights a two-run lead on a sacrifice fly by Jack Meade (2-for-3). The Falcons sent the contest into extras with runs off of a pair of sacrifice flies in the fifth and seventh innings.
Mercier made it to first base with a fielder’s choice in the eighth, and as a pinch runner for Mercier, Billy Carr advanced to second on a single by Meade. JT Martin came in to pinch hit in the sixth and moved Carr over to third on a fielder’s choice. With two outs and runners on the corners, Leifert scored Carr for the game-winning run on a base hit.
Southington finished with nine hits and committed just one error. Jake Neuman (0-2) started on the mound and went seven innings with seven strikeouts, allowing four hits and an earned run. Verrilli relieved Neuman to close and pick up his first win of the season, allowing just one hit and one walk.
Win at Wethersfield
MAY 10—The Knights capped off the week the next day by earning their second-straight win and qualifying for the Class LL Tournament with an 8-6 victory over Wethersfield at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, getting back to .500 on the season. Dunkin’ Donuts Park is home to the Minor League Baseball team, the Hartford Yard Goats.
The Knights took a two-run lead after the first inning and extended their lead to three with a run in the third, but they managed to pull away with four runs in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Meade scored Chiaro and Paradis on a double, and Neuman rounded out the inning by scoring Worth and Tyler Strong on a double of his own.
The Knights added two more runs in the sixth for insurance. Wethersfield’s rally fell short with a run in the bottom of the fifth and two in the sixth.
Southington’s finished with 10 hits and committed just one error. Paradis went 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI, two runs scored, a double, and a walk. Neuman went 2-for-3 with a walk. Brendan Kavanagh contributed with a pair of RBI as well.
Mercier started on the mound and picked up his fourth win of the season after going four innings with two strikeouts, allowing four hits, an earned run, and a walk. Worth (2 strikeouts) and Krar saw some action on the mound as well.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.