By BRIAN JENNINGS
With two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, Matt DiNello stepped up to the plate and Southington Shock teammate Joe Daigle inched his lead off of second base. The score was knotted, 1-1. Shadows were crawling across the field because of a power failure with the stadium lights, and it looked like the series would be heading back to Glastonbury for game three.
But it didn’t shake DiNello’s confidence. He strapped the Velcro on his batting gloves, pushed his helmet tight on his head, and dug his cleats into the dirt to settle into the box.
Glastonbury’s Baylor LaPointe delivered a first pitch fastball, and DiNello ripped it past a diving second baseman. Daigle rounded third, looked back, and strolled into home plate with ease. And the celebration began.
“All day I tried to hit the ball, see it deep, and put a good swing on it,” said DiNello. “That last at-bat, I just went up there and tried to hit it hard with two outs. We get a guy on, and I knew Joe was going to get a good, two-out jump and just try to find some green somewhere. Craig [Frobel] pitched too good of a game to not get it done for him tonight.”
The Southington Shock (14-9) shocked their home crowd at Southington High School on Tuesday, July 28 in a 2-1 walk-off win over the Glastonbury Arrows (13-12). The victory gave the Shock their second straight Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League title and the program’s fifth championship in the league’s seven year existence. The Shock won their first three titles in the first three seasons of the league (2009-11).
“He’s [DiNello] been making good contact the whole playoffs,” said Shock manager Charlie Lembo. “He’s hitting balls right at people and hitting deep fly balls. The ball he hit last night in Glastonbury probably would have gotten out of here in left center. It was bombed, but it’s a little deeper out there…And he came up with a big, two-out hit in the bottom of the seventh tonight.”
Lack of light might have been a setback that both teams had to factor into their game plan, but an accident on I-84 pressed umpires and the Arrows for time on arrival to the field.
“We planned for a seven o’clock game with lights, and we had to get it in,” said Lembo. “There was a lot of running around, and I want to thank the umpires and Glastonbury for getting here early. We have guys coming from all over the state to get here, and a lot of things had to happen to make that happen with the traffic.”
Dave Palladino started the Shock’s seventh inning rally with a base hit, but he was thrown out at second on a sacrifice bunt from Daigle that turned into a fielder’s choice. Nick DeLotto got on base with a walk after ball four was called on a full count, pushing Daigle to second. LaPointe got his fourth strikeout of the game when he struck out Colin King, before eventually reaching DiNello (2-for-4).
Greg Zullo went 2-for-3 as a part of the Shock’s nine hits.
The Shock struck first with a run in the first inning. Matt Paola got to second on a double, and would come around to score on an RBI single by Mitch Williams. The Shock held on to their one-run lead until the seventh when the heavy hitters of the Arrow’s lineup appeared.
Mario Fontanella started the top of the inning off with a base hit and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Macneil Finnegan drove Fontanella in on an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1.
“If we executed, I think it would have been 3-0 going into the sixth,” said Lembo. “We didn’t execute. When you’re facing good pitching, a good defensive team, and a good team all around, you have to be able to get those bunts down. With that, it’s fundamental baseball. We’ve been able to do that in the past and throughout the whole playoffs. I think we were actually scoring more runs when we were playing small ball than we were when we were letting the bats fly and swinging away.”
Frobel pitched a complete game for the Shock with eight strikeouts, allowing six hits and one earned run.
“Unfortunately, they came up with their three, four, five, hitters in the seventh,” Frobel said. “I got behind on a few hitters to start that inning. When you get behind on hitters, they’ll find a way to score. All game, we were lucky enough to get out of some jams and they were even getting some guys in. So their coach was probably looking at it the same way. They could have put up some runs and they were getting a lot of leadoff guys on without scoring.”
Frobel said his slider was putting batters away early in the game.
“I was keeping them off balance, but I was getting ahead with the fastball and could throw it for a strike whenever I wanted,” said Frobel. “I was throwing, fastball, curveball, slider all pretty much for a strike today and keeping them off balance. It’s always tough to hit when you don’t know what’s coming.”
Lembo said that they were keeping an eye on Frobel in the last two innings.
“He got hit with a one-hopper or line drive that went off of his glove and hit him in his wrist,” said Lembo. “We were hoping to get this finished up quickly for two reasons: one so his wrist didn’t stiffen up on him because it was his throwing hand and the other because of the lack of having lights. So we wanted him in and out to get him back out there, but he said he felt fine and wanted it.”
LaPointe also threw a complete game with four strikeouts, allowing nine hits, two earned runs, and two walks.
The Shock shutout the Arrows by a score of 6-0 in game one of the best of three series on Monday night at Riverside Field in Glastonbury. The Shock finished the regular season with a .500 record of 9-9 and entered the postseason as a No.4-seed, while the Arrows also finished with a .500 record of 10-10.