By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington head coach Marc Verderame told his team that it’s always darkest before the dawn.
Post 72 was in a dark place following three straight losses, but there was a plan in place to turn it all around.
“We had a plan,” Verderame said. “Beat Guilford twice, come here, beat [Cheshire], and that’s what we did. We feel like we can beat anybody right now.”
Southington won two straight games over Guilford last Saturday and Sunday before closing the regular season with a solid 6-2 victory over Zone 3 champion Cheshire on Monday night at Southington High School. The win over Cheshire gave Verderame his 200th career victory in his 11th season. Verderame got the celebratory bath from the water jug, courtesy of Ryan Sheehan and Tyler Cyr.
“It feels great, it’s all about the players,” Verderame said. “I’ve had some great players during my time coaching. It’s a great honor to be mentioned with guys like [John] Fontana and [Dave] Rustico. I want to thank Charlie Lembo and Bob Kalvinek for giving me the opportunity.”
Southington (20-8) had just two hits, a single each from Dylan Chiaro and Andrew Owsianko, but it took advantage of 10 walks issued by three Cheshire pitchers. Danny Topper was hit by a pitch in the second inning for Post 72’s first run, then Chiaro singled to drive in the second run. A walk to Brandon Kohl scored the third run. Southington tallied three more runs in the fifth, two on walks by Connor Patenaude and Topper, and another on a wild pitch.
“We execute, we’re going to win,” Verderame said. “We get the guys over, we steal. We got the pitching, we only need a couple runs.”
Winning pitcher Jason Krar worked around his own six walks and wound up pitching 5 2/3 innings. Krar gave up a run on three hits and struck out four.
“He’s struggled a lot this year, and he’s worked hard at it,” Verderame said. “He’s going to have a bright future, especially next year.”
Shortstop Jake Romano made one of the best plays of the season when he fielded a grounder to his left, spun, and fired a strike to Avancha at first base for the out.
Southington opens state tournament play in “Pod E” on Saturday at 1 p.m. against Trumbull at Southington High School. Trumbull was the third-best team in Zone 3. The other teams in the pod are Hamden (No. 1 in Zone 2) and Bethel (No. 4 in Zone 5).
Here’s what else happened in the games from July 11-16:
Swept by Meriden
JULY 11—Post 72 was defeated by Meriden 3-0 and managed just one hit off of complete-game winner Carson Coon. Josh Panarella had a one-out single in the top of the fifth inning to break up the perfect game, and Aneesh Avancha walked in the sixth. Jason Krar took the loss on the mound for Southington.
JULY 12—Meriden jumped all over Post 72 and walked off in the sixth inning with a 12-2 win. Tyler Cyr pitched a bullpen-saving 3 2/3 innings in relief of Jeremy Mercier, who took the loss. Topper led off the game with a bunt single and came around to score for a 1-0 Southington lead, the only one for the visitors. Kohl and Avancha had RBI singles, and Chiaro tripled.
JULY 14—Southington got a great start from Ryan Sheehan in the 10-0 mercy-rule victory. Sheehan threw four innings of two-hit ball. Ryan Henderson loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but caught a line-drive comebacker, then threw to first baseman Brayden Cooney for a game-ending double play.
On offense, Cooney had a bases-clearing triple, one of three triples on the day by Post 72. Dylan Chiaro had a two-run triple, and Brandon Kohl’s triple in the second inning kick-started the first of two five-run frames for Southington. Owsianko had two hits and two RBI.
JULY 15—Southington had opportunities to win this game, but it took until the bottom of the ninth inning to get over the hump. That’s when Avancha singled to right field with runners on first and second for the 3-2 walkoff win. Jake Romano came around from second and slid home with the winning run. Romano reached on a one-out single, then moved to second when Patenaude replaced him at first on an error.
In the top of the ninth, Topper snuffed out a Guilford rally when he caught a line drive near third base, then stepped on the bag for an inning-ending double play. Justin Verrilli started his last game for Southington and pitched the first 5 1/3 innings before being lifted to an ovation and high-fives from his teammates and coaches. Verilli will not be playing baseball in college. Nick Borkowski (2 2/3 innings) and Henderson (1 inning) pitched in relief, with Henderson picking up the victory.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.