By BRIAN JENNINGS
Errors and mental mistakes were the Achilles heel of the Blue Knight baseball team during the regular season. After a game without any of them in the first round of the Class LL Tournament, the errors and mental mistakes returned in the second round.
This year’s postseason run was a repeat of last year’s run, and the Knights advanced as far as the second round for the second-straight year. Nevertheless, they gave the top seeded Fairfield Prep a run for their money, tied with them through the first five innings, and Southington coach Charlie Lembo said that he truly believed his guys were going to come out on top.
“We battled all day,” said Lembo. “I was proud of the way our guys fought all game long. Give those guys credit. They took advantage of a few of our mistakes, capitalized, and that was the game.”
Following three scoreless innings, the Knights got on the board first with a RBI single by Jeremy Mercier that scored Jack Meade with two outs in the fourth. The Jesuits responded in the bottom of the inning. Their leadoff batter walked and made it to second base on an infield error, eventually coming around to knot the score on a sacrifice fly.
The Jesuits capped off the win an inning later. In the sixth, they put their leadoff batter on first with an outfield error and moved that runner over to second on an infield error. Their third batter drove in a run with a base hit, and the next batter drove in their last two runs on a bases-clearing double before being thrown out at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Those two errors in the sixth were the only errors the Knights committed in the game, but they ultimately cost them runs. The Knights mustered just three hits as well, as their first hit and base runner of the game didn’t come until the fourth.
The Jesuits committed just one error in the game, but their lone error almost cost them. Following a pitching change in the sixth, Southington’s leadoff batter was hit by a pitch and later stole second. He advanced to third on an infield error, but was eventually thrown out at the plate immediately following the error on the same play. The Knights also left a runner on third to end the inning.
“Sometimes, games come down to a play or two,” said Lembo. “Unfortunately, we were just on the wrong end of that. But that’s the game. Their guy was throwing well, and Jake was throwing well for us. It was a pretty even game back and forth for a number of innings. Unfortunately, we had a baserunning mistake, and that stopped us from going on top right there.”
Jake Neuman (0-3) received the decision after starting the game on the mound. He went five innings with a pair of strikeouts, allowing five hits, three walks, and two earned runs. Jason Krar (3-2) relieved Neuman to pitch the sixth.
Although he received the decision, Lembo said that Neuman’s performance was still awesome.
“We had a couple of options today, but with him coming from the left side with his slider, it might give them some trouble,” said Lembo. “He’s a sophomore. He did a great job.”
The loss marked the end of Southington’s season. The Knights finished 12-8 overall, sharing the CCC West Colonial title with NW Catholic and went 1-1 in the postseason.
The Knights are losing eight players to graduation after this season, including Dylan Chiaro, Brandon Kohl, Jeremy Mercier, Josh Panarella, Dan Topper, Christian Vargas, Justin Verrilli, and Jacob Weed.
“I don’t think people realized that we had three sophomores and two or three juniors starting in the lineup,” said Lembo. “Our seniors did an awesome job all year. When we had growing pains early in the season, our seniors stuck with it. Their leadership was important. Just happy with all of the guys and the commitment level.”
MAY 29—The Knights advanced to the second round of the Class LL Tournament for the ninth-straight year a day earlier with a 1-0 win at No. 16 Trumbull.
With two outs in the fifth inning, Josh Panarella scored Dylan Chiaro on a RBI single for the lone run of the game. The Eagles left 10 runners on base, including a pair of those runners on third, as 15 of their 21 outs were flyouts.
Southington mustered just four hits and didn’t commit any errors. Dan Topper went 2-for-3 at the plate.
Mercier started the game on the mound and picked up his sixth win of the season after going five innings with a pair of strikeouts, allowing six walks and three hits. Krar closed with a pair of strikeouts of his own, allowing one walk, to get his second save of the season.
For more in depth coverage, see our weekly print edition. To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.