By JOHN GORALSKI
Coach Marc Verderame looked like a blackjack dealer the way he shuffled Southington pitchers into the lineup during a doubleheader to start the season. On Saturday, June 9, Verderame marched out five different pitcher to the mound, and every one of them looked like Southington’s ace.
Last summer, Post 72 struggled at times with an inexperienced lineup, but Verderame said that it helped set up the depth and experience for this 2018 American Legion baseball team.
“We have five or six guys that could start on the mound for us,” said the coach. “I’ve had some pretty good pitchers over the years, but this is probably, collectively the best group I’ve had.”
Southington was just as dominant at the plate. In two road games, the locals were able to combine for 17 runs 13 hits, and Verderame expects that trend to continue.
Just like the young high school team seemed to grow after their summer experience, Verderame said that the summer team should be able to build on the high school’s recent success.
“This summer’s really important for this group,” he said. “They’ve had their first taste of the big time. Now, they get to gel together as a group this summer. With the talent that is here, it’s pretty scary to think about how far they could go.”
Southington came out swinging in the first game of the doubleheader. Post 72 built a 1-0 lead in the first inning and put the game out of reach with a seven run rally in the second inning and a three run rally in the third on their way to an 11-1 victory.
After 5 innings, East Haddam had enough.
Brandon Kohl (2-for-2) set the pace. Leadoff Danny Topper scored three times. Andrew Owsianko managed four RBI. Patient batters drew 10 walks.
“Usually, when we start the season, there’s a learning curve because of the wooden bat,” said Verderame. “The wooden bat is the great equalizer, but the group that I have here.”
Ryan Sheehan struck out five in three innings to earn the victory. Ryan Henderson and Jason Krar pitched an inning apiece.
The second game continued the trend. Southington scored twice in the first inning and built a 5-0 lead as they cruised to a 6-1 victory.
Kohl went 2-for-2. Josh Panarella (1-for-3) drove in two runs, and Topper scored twice.
Justin Verrilli allowed one run over five innings to get the win, and Nick Borkowski threw two innings of perfect relief.
The double header gave the locals a good look at their new Zone 3 competition. For one season, Post 72 will compete against East Haddam, Guilford, Madison, Wallingford, Meriden, Cheshire, and Middletown before returning to their regular zone next summer.
“I think it’s a good chance for us,” Verderame said. Obviously, we don’t get to play Bristol or Simsbury or some of the other good rivalries that we’re used to, but this is a good opportunity to start new rivalries like Cheshire. This zone is probably going to come down to Cheshire or ourselves, and that’s pretty exciting.”
Southington will face Cheshire, Madison, and Wallingford over five games this week.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.