By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington baseball went from down a run and down to its last three outs in its first round game, all the way through to the state semifinals on Monday.
How did the Blue Knight’s pull it off? By winning three straight one-run games, including the first two via walk-off singles from Billy Carr. No. 6 Southington came back to beat New Britain 4-3 in 11 innings in the first round on May 29-30, then secured a 1-0 win over No. 19 Darien via the second walk-off single on May 31. On June 1, Southington downed No. 6 Fairfield Ludlowe 3-2.
“It’s a tough week, but it’s been a really fun week, too,” coach Charlie Lembo said after the Ludlowe win. “It’s been really great being with these guys and seeing what they’re made of under pressure.”
Southington (20-3 overall) looked to ride the momentum into Tuesday’s semifinal game against nemesis Amity, the No. 10 seed, at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.
JUNE 1—The Falcons got the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the top of the seventh inning of the quarterfinal round matchup.
With first and third and one out, the runner from first went in motion. Ludlowe’s Vince Camera smashed a line drive to the right side, but Southington second baseman Bryce Worth was there. Worth snagged the liner, then made the easy throw to Jake Neuman at first base for the game-ending double play.
Jason Krar (4-0) started and won for Southington. He went five innings and gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits. Krar struck out five, walked two and hit a batter on 73 pitches (44 strikes). Brendan Kavanagh came on for the final two innings and picked up the save. Kavanagh allow one hit, hit a batter and threw 22 pitches (15 strikes).
Carr doubled, scored a run and drove in another for Southington. Jake Romano tripled, walked and scored a run while Andrew Paradis singled, stole a base and scored a run. Kyle Leifert had the other Knight hit, a single.
Walk-off vs. Darien
MAY 31—Ryan Henderson and Mac McLean posted zeroes for the first six and a half innings in a second round pitchers’ duel.
“I thought both teams pitched great. Their guy threw great, Ryan threw great,” Lembo said. “We made a few mistakes in the field, they made a few.”
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Paradis led off with a single, Southington’s first hit off McLean. Jake DelMonte dropped a sacrifice bunt to move Paradis to second. After an intentional walk to Neuman, Kevin McIntyre reached on an error to load the bases. That brought up Carr, who was 0-for-2. Carr fell behind 0-2, then singled up the middle through the drawn-in infield to score Paradis and give Southington a walk-off win.
“That kid, I don’t even know what world he’s on right now,” Henderson said.
Henderson (5-2) threw all seven innings, gave up one hit, struck out four, walked two and hit a batter on 71 pitches (49 strikes).
“I just kept on going out there. I didn’t just keep throwing fastballs the whole time,” Henderson said. “I switched it up, first pitch curveball, slider, it didn’t matter. I just had to get it in their heads so that they couldn’t predict what was coming next.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys,” Lembo said. “You’re asking 15, 16, 17 year-old guys to prepare for a tournament game on Tuesday, we don’t play. Prepare again on Wednesday, we play 10 innings, then prepare to come back all over again and play it on Thursday, then prepare again and play again on Friday.”
Comeback beats NB
The Knights and Hurricanes were tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning on May 29 when the rains came and suspended the first round contest. When the game resumed on May 30, Southington left the bases loaded in the 10th, then watched New Britain’s Danniel Rivera smash a home run to lead off the top of the 11th.
“It was a little bit demoralizing at first, but either way we had to score a run to win the game, so may as well make it two,” Paradis said.
Kavanagh (1-1) made sure the score stayed 3-2 in the top of the 11th. He came on with no outs and two runners on, but was able to escape with no damage done.
“I just came in the game, I was trying to stay in mentally. I just wanted to throw strikes,” Kavanagh said. “I saw the bunt get down, I just wanted to field it cleanly, maybe get the play at three, it wasn’t there, went to one. I battled with the next kid, I got the ‘K’ there, that was awesome, and then the groundball rolled up. My slider was working really well, he rolled it up and ended the inning.”
Jack Meade (4-for-5) led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a single. DelMonte sacrificed Meade to second, then Paradis doubled to left to score Meade and tie the game.
“They were playing way out there, so I just dropped it down the line,” Paradis said.
After an intentional walk to Neuman and a fly out, Carr came up in a pinch-hit situation, fell behind 0-2, then delivered the walk-off single.
“I had to give myself a deep breath,” Carr said. “He ended up throwing it down the middle for me, I hit it the other way, which was honestly the first time I hit the ball the other way all year. It just happened to work out, and I was just happy we won the game.”
Neuman pitched the first eight innings and picked up a no-decision. Krar pitched for an inning, then Vinny Spizzoucco was in for three batters in the 11th before giving way to Kavanagh.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com