By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington baseball went on a run that should live in this town’s baseball lore for all-time. The third-seeded Blue Knights ran off four wins by one run, including three by walk-off hits, on the way to their first Class LL state championship game since 2014.
Southington lost that championship game to fifth-seeded Staples, but the run was still an incredible one. Even better for the future of the Knights, they started six juniors in the Class LL final, including Kevin McIntyre at designated hitter. Also starting that game were: Jake DelMonte at catcher; Jake Neuman at first base; along with Jack Meade in left field; Andrew Paradis in center field; and Billy Carr in right field. Sophomore Devan Bade started at third base.
Southington loses seniors Bryce Worth, Jake Romano and Ryan Henderson, who all started in the state final, along with classmates Tyler Strong, Nico Gaudio, Jason Krar, J.T. Martin, Brendan Kavanagh and Kyle Leifert.
“I love these guys, they were great. We’re going to miss the seniors that are moving on,” coach Charlie Lembo said after the Class LL final. “We have a number of guys coming back, and we’ll get at it again.”
The junior left-handed pitching duo of Neuman and Vinny Spizzoucco will be back. Neuman and Spizzoucco combined for an 11-0 record. Neuman was 6-0 with a 0.70 ERA, two complete games, 56 strikeouts and 12 walks in 49.2 innings. Neuman gave up only eight runs all season (five earned) and opponents hit just .164 against him, including a paltry .085 with runners in scoring position. Spizzoucco went 5-0 with a 1.22 ERA, one complete game, 30 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings. Batters hit .215 against him, and they only batted .120 with runners in scoring position.
Southington will need to develop some depth pitching depth after losing Henderson (5-3, 1.00 ERA), Krar (4-0, 1.79 ERA, 2 complete games) and Kavanagh (1-1, 1 save, .174 opponent average RISP).
On offense, Romano led the team with a .392 average and 23 RBI, and his bat will need to be replaced. Luckily for the Knights, there were plenty of solid hitters in the lineup who are back. Meade was terrific in the No. 1 spot in the order with a .380 average, 20 walks and 12 stolen bases in 15 attempts. DelMonte was strong at No. 2 with a .342 average, including a .476 clip with runners in scoring position. Paradis hit .341 in the No. 3 slot with 19 RBI and five stolen bases. Neuman batted .321 in the cleanup spot with 21 RBI.
Meade, DelMonte, Paradis and Neuman combined for 35 doubles and 69 RBI. Carr saw more time as the season went on and had walk-off singles in back-to-back tournament wins over New Britain and Darien. Carr hit .281 and had seven stolen bases to his credit. McIntyre batted .275 with two doubles, two triples and a home run.
Behind the plate, DelMonte handled 188 chances without making an error. He had 172 putouts and 16 assists. In the outfield, Meade and Paradis combined for three errors while Carr had none.
Southington went from a second round exit in 2018 to a 21-4 record and a berth in the Class LL state finals in 2019. The 2019 juniors will be seniors in 2020, and they—along with newcomers to the program—will look to keep the Knights at the highest levels of the CCC and Class LL.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com