By BRIAN JENNINGS
Matt Sciota hit an infield ground ball in game two of the doubleheader with Avon on Sunday. He hustled down the first-base line to beat out the throw, and when his foot hit the bag, his knee gave out.
After catching the first game of the doubleheader, Josh Panarella suited up once again, and took Sciota’s spot behind home plate. Sciota wasn’t the only player injured on Southington’s roster, as Tyler Cyr and Brandon Kohl had sustained injuries before coming into Sunday’s game as well.
Never mind coming out of the first week of the summer season with just one win in four games. Post 72 is just trying to survive. However, Southington coach Marc Verderame isn’t too concerned…thanks to the team’s bullpen.
“Pitching wins ballgames, especially in this wood bat league, and we have great pitching,” the coach said. “We’re going to get better and go on a little run here.”
This year will be very similar to 2016. Last summer, Southington assembled a solid bullpen for the first time in years, as much of the team’s success came from the mound. Post 72 is likely to see that again this summer.
Southington won’t have ace, John Mikosz, from the high school team. But in order to make a second-straight appearance in the postseason, Post 72 will need help from its arm-ada of Connor McDonough, Bailey Robarge, and Ryan Sheehan.
“We’re going to excel on the pitching front,” said Verderame. “We have three or four starters, and three guys that can come out of the bullpen. We play about five games a week, so it’s important to have that.”
A great bullpen helped carry the Blue Knight baseball team during much of the spring as well, but pitching isn’t the only part of the field that is carrying over from the high school season to the summer season. The Knights struggled at the plate with inconsistent hitting, and it has already been an issue for Post 72.
“We’re seeing that early right now, and we made some adjustments,” the coach said. “We’re working hard in the cage, but we have to execute and run our offense with steals and bunts.”
Putting the time into swinging in the cage is one way of fighting a hitting slump. Simply getting used to the transition from medal bats during the high school season to wooden bats during the summer season is another, which could be the answer these Southington baseball players are looking for.
“Swinging with a wood bat is a completely different than swinging with a medal bat,” said Verderame. “You just have to practice it over and over again. I’ve been coaching for 10 years, and we’ve seen a little lag in the beginning of every season. But we always pick it up.”
Post 72 will be back on the diamond this week with games against Wolcott (3-1), Torrington (1-4), Unionville (0-4), and Simsbury (3-1). Southington is currently 1-3 overall and seventh out of nine teams in the Zone 1 standings. Avon is in first.
Loss vs. Bristol
JUNE 8—Post 72 opened its summer season by failing to put up a run in a 3-0 shutout to Bristol at home on Thursday.
With one out and the bases loaded in the third inning, Cory Fradette drew a walk to give Bristol a 1-0 lead. A batter later, Zach Marquis drove in a pair of runs with a base hit to cap off the win for Bristol. Southington mustered just four hits, as Brayden Cooney went 2-for-3 with a double.
Robarge (0-1) started on the mound and went three innings with a strikeout, allowing four hits, three earned runs, and three walks. Justin Verilli relieved Robarge to go two innings, and McDonough and Vinny Viturale each threw an inning as well.
Win vs. Terryville
JUNE 9—Southington bounced back from its season-opening loss by flipping the script to earn its first win of the season, blanking Terryville, 3-0, at home the next day.
With one out in the first, Jonathan Gray and Jake Babon each got on base with a pair of singles. A couple batters later with two outs and the bases loaded, Jeremy Mercier gave Southington a 2-0 advantage after driving in Gray and Babon with a base hit.
Babon capped off the victory by stealing home to score the team’s third run in the sixth. Those three hits by Gray, Babon, and Mercier were the only three hits Southington registered in the game.
Nick Borkowski (1-0) threw a complete-game shutout with three strikeouts, allowing just four hits.
Doubleheader vs. Avon
JUNE 11—Following the first win on the year, Post 72 fell right back into the loss column after dropping both games of a doubleheader to undefeated Avon at home. Avon took game one by a hefty count of 10-3.
The score was knotted at 1-1 after the second inning, but Avon pulled away with nine runs in the fourth and fifth innings combined. Southington’s rally fell short with a pair of runs in the sixth, finishing with seven hits and two errors. Mercier went 2-for-4, as Southington stranded 12 runners on base.
Sheehan (0-1) started on the mound and went three and two thirds innings, allowing five walks, four hits, and three earned runs. Viturale and Jake Weed saw some action on the mound as well, and Verilli closed.
Game two was a lot closer, but Avon still managed to edge Southington by a pair of runs, 2-0.
Avon scored their lone two runs of the game off a pair of base hits with two outs in the fourth and sixth innings. Southington mustered just three hits and committed two errors.
McDonough (0-1) started on the mound and went five innings with six strikeouts, allowing two hits and a walk. Weed closed.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/06/13/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-june-16-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.