It isn’t often that a sports team truly surprises us, even though Cinderella seasons are talked about so much that they have become cliché. But this year’s American Legion baseball team’s championship run was as surprising as they come.
To put it in perspective, we’ve been waiting 25 years since Southington’s only other legion title, and that team wasn’t a surprise to anyone. On the mound, they had future Major Leaguer Carl Pavano, and it was a tight-knit group that played together all year round. That 1993 team was sandwiched between a 19-1 varsity season and a Class LL championship run in 1994. They were at the top of the most dominant zone in the state and a favorite at the start of the postseason.
In comparison, this year’s team came out of nowhere. This summer’s squad came from every corner of the globe. Sure, they’re all Southington athletes, but the roster was formed from four different high school programs and four different colleges. That might be one reason why it took so long to gel. The team trailed a hot Cheshire team by five games in the regular season zone standings. The coaches, including Blue Knight alum Marc Verderame, did a great job preparing this team for the real test.
Post 72 saved their best for last. They had to claw their way out of the first rounds, eking a 5-4 win over Trumbull in the first game of the pod before ousting top seeded Hamden, 8-4. Then, it took them two tries to put away Trumbull, falling 3-1 before winning the pod with a 7-2 victory.
The Super Regionals were a different story. Southington finally found their second gear as they dispatched Oakville before blanking Cheshire twice, including a 13-inning pitching duel that broke open with a five-run rally (punctuated by MVP Jeremy Mercier’s grand slam home run).
Mercier was superb down the stretch, securing a berth in the championship round with his baseclearing home run, clearing the bases with a three-run double in the first game of the championship series, and setting the pace in the final contest with his (and the team’s) second homer of the season.
Thanks for the memories, boys. It was a great moment for the Southington community.
Get out and vote on Tuesday
This is an interesting election year for Southington residents, and Tuesday kicks things into high gear. If you don’t think that state officials have much influence on local affairs, think again. These off-year elections are very important.
Southington is coming off a budget cycle that saw the town go toe-to-toe with the state as a lame duck governor seemed to be mounting a personal attack against the town.
First, Gov. Dannell Malloy sounded the alarm about a huge state deficit and slashed $5.1 million from Southington’s education funding (10 percent of his statewide cuts). Then, he sued the town for the hole that it caused.
Next, the governor found $27 million in the coffers for state-wide municipal projects but kept Southington off the list of recipients.
Finally, the general assembly decided to invest $10 million in a Hartford stadium and $3 million to dredge a local pond for a non-taxpayer (with no funding trickled back to education now that money was found under the mattress).
Tuesday begins the process of fixing this problem. Whether it’s a Republican or Democrat that assumes the top position, it’s important to be part of the process—even the primaries.
As we’ve learned, Southington will definitely be affected.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.