By BRIAN JENNINGS
Clean baseball, sound pitching, and reliable defense are just some of the principles behind Southington’s recent five-game winning streak, as the Blue Knight baseball team came out of this past week unscathed with three more wins.
Southington (11-8) is over .500 for the first time this season, and with one game remaining the Knights are still in the hunt for a divisional title.
“The pitchers feel a little better when it’s warmer, and everyone feels a little better to play on some sunny days, instead of through the cold temperatures we started the season with,” said Lembo. “Field conditions are all improving. That could be a part of it, but there are a lot of variables.”
Lembo said that he doesn’t really care how the consistency happened. He’s just glad that it has.
“The kids are feeling better,” said Lembo. “They’re swinging freer and are having better at-bats. Pitchers are hitting their spots, and our defense is coming around. We could be a tough out in the tournament.”
The Knights will be back on the diamond this week when they close out the regular season with a home game against divisional NW Catholic (11-7) on Monday, May 21. If the Knights win Monday’s game, they will share the CCC West Colonial title with the Lions, who are a game ahead of the Knights in the division with a 7-2 regional record.
Win vs. Conard
MAY 14—The Knights mustered just four hits, but they didn’t commit any errors. They managed to begin the week on Monday with their second shutout of the season by blanking divisional Conard, 5-0, at home, jumping up a game above .500 for the first time this season. The Knights defeated the Chieftains, 15-3, in six innings in their first meeting earlier in the season.
Southington got on the board early with a run in the opening inning and then scattered runs from the third to the fifth with two in the third. Dan Topper went 2-for-3 at the plate with three runs scored and a double.
Justin Verrilli (2-0) started the game on the mound and picked up his second win of the season to remain undefeated on the hill after going five innings with four strikeouts, allowing five hits and two walks. Jake Neuman (0-2) relieved Verrilli to go an inning and a third with a pair of strikeouts, and Jake Weed (0-1) closed with a pair of strikeouts as well.
“We got great pitching,” said Lembo. “We even made some nice plays on the hits that they did have. Andrew Paradis threw a strike to Josh Panarella to get a guy out at third trying to tag on a fly ball. We played solid defense.”
Win at NFA
MAY 16—Dylan Chiaro sparked Southington’s offense with a solo homerun in the first inning to help the Knights remain hot a couple of days later at Dickenman Field in Norwich, where they triumphed over NFA with a 9-1 victory.
Southington finished with eight hits and scored at least one run in the first four innings. The Knights posted five runs in the fourth off of two singles, two wild pitches, and an infield error.
Jack Meade went 2-for-2 at the plate with two runs scored and a RBI. Andrew Paradis went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, and a walk. Christian Vargas (2 RBI) and Chiaro (2 runs scored) contributed as well.
Jeremy Mercier (5-2) started the game on the mound and picked up his fifth win of the season after going five innings with eight strikeouts, allowing six hits, two walks, and an earned run. Nico Gaudio relieved Mercier to go an inning, and Bryce Worth (1-1) closed.
“I was a little concerned because this was an elimination game for NFA and knew that they were probably going to throw one of their better guys, but we really played a good game,” said Lembo. “We came out swinging the bats really well to manufacture some runs early and played some good defense. A lot of guys on the team contributed.”
Win at Hall
MAY 18—The Knights capped off the week on Friday by earning their fifth-straight win after edging divisional Hall by a run, 4-3, in eight innings, which was their third extra-inning contest of the season. The Knights defeated the Warriors, 8-4, in their first meeting earlier in the season.
Neuman (2-for-4) scored Meade (2-for-3) for the first run of the game on a base hit in the second inning. Southington’s lead wouldn’t last long though, as the Warriors took a two-run lead with three runs in the third off of an infield error, a wild pitch, and a single.
Kyle Leifert knotted the score and eventually sent the game into extra innings by scoring Meade on a base knock in the fourth and on a sacrifice fly in the sixth. With one out in the eighth, Neuman drove Paradis in on a 4-3 groundout for the game-winning run.
Southington finished with seven hits. Ryan Henderson (1-0) started on the mound and went five innings with two strikeouts, allowing three hits and a walk. Jason Krar (2-2) closed to get his second win of the season with three strikeouts and one hit.
“We made a couple of errors in that inning and gave them three runs,” said Lembo. “There’s just no other way to say it. We’ve been playing pretty clean baseball, but it’s going to happen. Their pitcher threw pretty well and was keeping us off balance a little bit, but we got some key hits.”
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.