AVON, July 22 – Avon American Legion coach Brian Doyle wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his team this summer. He knew he had some talented players returning from a squad that had finished second in Zone 1 in 2010.
But would it be enough to challenge for a Zone 1 championship and get past the single elimination play-in round and earn a spot in the prestigious final 16 of the Connecticut American Legion state tournament?
Yes. Avon (21-7) fell one win shy of winning its first Zone 1 championship. Post 201 finished a game behind Bristol (20-6) and won nine of its final 11 Zone 1 contests, including rallying to beat Bristol, 6-4 in eight innings at Muzzy Field.
With 12 hits and eight runs in the first three innings, Avon rolled to a 12-2 victory over Monroe, cut short to eight innings by the 10-run mercy rule, to earn its first bid to the final 16 of the state tournament.
Avon faces host Middletown on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Palmer Field. If you can’t be there in person, you can listen to the game on your computer or mobile device through SportingNewsCT.com.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Doyle said. “Of the (last) three teams we’ve had, this may have been the most likely to miss the state tournament. But then Tyler D’Onofrio decided to play. We knew Chris Frask was a great pitcher. But we didn’t expect him to be the No. 3 hitter and lead the team in RBI. We didn’t realize he could hit and play defense the way he has. And others guys have stepped up.”
D’Onofrio is an All-State caliber athlete, who was a centerpiece of Avon High’s football, basketball and baseball teams in high school. He hit .294 this year with 15 RBI. He had a two-RBI single in a 2-0 win over Torrington in the waning days of the season and had a key RBI single in an early June victory over Torrington when Avon erased a three-run deficit in the sixth inning.
Frask, a walk-on at Purdue this spring, was the closer for the team last year and has again excelled in that position with a team-high six saves and 40 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings. But he has contributed at the plate, too, hitting .309 with a team-high 17 RBI and seven doubles.
Everyone has contributed throughout the quick, compact six-week season.
Pitcher Brendan Telfer has been outstanding with a 5-1 record, 1.83 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 42 innings of work. He struck out 10 in a 2-0 win over Torrington in late June. Avon Old Farms hurler Matt Jadovich is 4-0 with two saves in 29 2/3 innings of work with a 0.71 ERA while Avon High’s Jared Sheiker also went 4-0 with 1 save and a 1.93 ERA.
Telfer has also done the job at the plate, hitting .322 with 10 RBI and three doubles. Jadovich added 15 RBI, four doubles and hit .309. Avon Old Farms’ Brandon Moss hit .246 with 16 RBI and four doubles. Sean Lanahan, who played at Babson College this spring, hit .464 with nine RBI and three doubles before getting hurt in late June. He was supposed to pitch and play first base.
Doyle knew he would be strong up the middle. Second baseman Connor Doyle hit. 370 with a team-high 33 hits, 15 RBI and three doubles. His brother, catcher Cody Doyle, hit .264 with 10 RBI.
Middletown (21-6, 17-3 zone) began the year by winning 15 of its first 16 games before cooling off down the stretch with the Zone 3 championship well in hand. But Post 75 had a stellar 1-0 win over East Haddam as pitcher Colin Sledzik struck out 15. Middletown also looked sharp in a 3-2 non-zone win over Simsbury last Saturday.
“I think our strengths are, first, something maybe people don’t notice, our overall team speed,” Middletown coach Tim D’Aquila told Jim Bransfield in the Middletown Press. “Then our pitching has been pretty good and pretty deep with seven or eight guys. I also think our defense has been pretty solid. I don’t know what we averaged, maybe less than an error a game, but we played good defense for the most part. I also thing we’re versatile in that we have a players who can play multiple positions.”
Sledzik or Tommy Ryan should start against Avon.