Avon’s George Nurisso is thrown out at the plate as he is tagged by Bristol catcher Connor Fitzsimmons (7) in a Zone 1 game at Avon Old Farms. Avon won the game, 8-1.
AVON, June 21 – A few weeks before the season, Avon American Legion baseball coach Brian Doyle wasn’t thinking about Post 201 contending for a Zone 1 championship. He was trying to get enough players to field a team.
“Our goal is always to make the (state tournament),” Doyle said. “A month ago, I thought that was a lofty goal. But not anymore.”
The program didn’t get enough players to field a junior Legion team this year. And even once Doyle got enough players for the Legion squad, he wasn’t sure of what they could do.
But after nine Zone 1 games, Doyle likes what he sees. Post 201 won seven of its first nine zone games. Avon beat Southington, 3-0 on Thursday night and earned a dominating 8-1 decision over defending Zone 1 champion Bristol at Avon Old Farms 24 hours earlier. Against Bristol, Post 201 rapped out 12 hits and scored six runs with two outs in the first inning to seize control of the game.
“We’re a tough team,” Doyle said. “Defensively, we’re pretty good. This might the smartest (Legion) team that I have coached. If you play good defense and execute then you have a good chance to win. Hitting wise, we won’t scare anyone. But we’ll play small ball.”
Playing in a league that uses wooden bats helps Avon (7-3, 7-2 Zone 1). “We have pitchers that throw strokes and when you do that, most of the guys will get themselves out,” Doyle said.
A year ago, Avon finished 21-7 and finished two games behind Bristol for the Zone 1 championship. Post 201 beat Monroe to earn a berth in the final 16 of the state tournament for the first time.
It won’t be easy for Avon this year. Post 201 still has to win eight of its remaining 20 Zone 1 contests to earn a berth in the state’s postseason tournament. And there is more parity in the Zone. Bristol has already dropped games to Burlington and Winsted.
After beating Wolcott by five behind Avon pitcher Michael Castellani, who allowed just one hit and struck out six in five innings of work, Wolcott rolled to a 13-6 win over Avon in the second game of a doubleheader.
Avon takes advantage of what it can to win. Against Bristol, four Avon batters came up with first inning hits with two strikes on them. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Cody Doyle, Connor Doyle, George Nurisso and Ben Lombard had singles. Lombard had two RBI as Avon took a 6-0 lead. They added a pair of unearned runs in the second inning.
On the mound, Connor Doyle, Liam O’Connor and Sean Smith combined to scatter six hits and shutdown Post 2. Avon had three players who primarily pitch. The rest of the pitching staff is strong position players who do their best for 40 or 50 pitches a game.
Castellani, who was the ace for Avon Old Farms this spring, Brandon Feinberg, who was the top pitcher at Avon High and Zach Davis (Avon HS) are the primary pitchers. Connor Doyle, O’Connor, Smith, Noah Hahn and Matt Koenig supplement the staff.
It was a team effort in the win over Southington. Four pitchers combined to pitch the shutout. Hahn started and pitched two innings, Koenig pitched the third and O’Connor got through the fourth inning. Castellani pitched the final three innings, scattering three hits and two walks. He struck out three.
Defensively, Post 201 made the plays. O’Connor made several good plays in centerfield while Lombard chased down a pair of fly balls for outs in right field, including one nice grab in the seventh inning with Southington trying to rally.
At the plate, Avon did enough to win. With two outs in the third inning, Jacob Bryant walked and Hahn and Nick Sanderson followed with singles to load the bases. O’Connor’s two-RBI single to centerfield gave Avon a 2-0 lead.
O’Connor helped make it 3-0. In the sixth, he walked, stole second base and third base and scampered home on a passed ball.
Catcher Cody Doyle, who finished his sophomore year at Avon Old Farms anchors the defense. Hahn, a sophomore at Avon High who played several years of AAU summer baseball, starts at shortstop
Connor Doyle and Koenig play at second base and third base with Nick Sanderson at third base and shortstop. O’Connor has been outstanding in centerfield. Dan Sheiker is in left field with Lombard in right field.
“They’re better than I thought they would be,” coach Brian Doyle said. In its first nine games, Post 201 has played with grit and intensity.
Connor Doyle scattered five hits and fanned six in 5 1/3rd innings in a 3-2 win over Unionville. In a 2-1 loss to Simsbury, Koenig went three innings and Post 201 had five pitchers combine to allow just six hits. Only once in the first nine games has Avon allowed more than nine hits in a game.
The win over Southington pushed Avon into a first place tie with Unionville at 7-2 in the zone.
For Avon, it was the second win ever over Bristol and its largest victory. Post 201 beat Bristol for the first time last year, 6-4 in eight innings. Bristol won seven in a row during the 2009-11 seasons. They also won 20 straight over Avon from 1993-94 and 1997 to 2000.
Avon 8, Bristol 1
Bristol (6-4) 001 000 0 – 1- 6-4
Avon (6-2) 620 000 x – 8-12-3
Connor Doyle, Liam O’Connor (3), Sean Smith (6) and Cody Doyle; Roberge, Cyr (3), Guilmette (6) and Fitzsimmons; 2B – Noah Hahn (A), Matt Koenig (A); Bush (B); WP – Cody Doyle; LP – Roberge
Remaining schedule for the Avon American Legion baseball team. Home games at Avon Old Farms
Sat. June 23: at Torrington (Fuessenich Park), 11 a.m.
Sun. June 24: at Bristol (2), 1 p.m. at Muzzy Field
Tues. June 26: WINSTED, 5:45 p.m.
Wed. June 27: UNIONVILLE, 5:45 p.m.
Thur. July 28: at Simsbury (Memorial Field), 5:30 p.m.
Sun. July 1: TORRINGTON (2), 1 p.m.
Tues. July 3: at Terryville, 5:45 p.m
Thurs. July 5: SOUTHINGTON, 5:45 p.m.
Fri. July 6: at Wolcott, 5:45 p.m.
Sun. July 8: at Winsted (2), 11 a.m. at Walker Field
Thur. July 12: at Southington, 7 p.m.
Fri. July 13: at Unionville (Tunxis Mead), 7 p.m.
Tues. July 17: SIMSBURY, 5:30 p.m.
Wed. July 18: TERRYVILLE, 5:30 p.m.
Zone 1 standings
As of Friday, June 22
Branford 2, Avon 0
Avon 6, Terryville 0
Avon 3-8, Burlington 1-1
Avon 3, Unionville 2
Simsbury 2, Avon 1
Avon 5-6, Wolcott 1-13
Avon 8, Bristol 1
Avon 3, Southington 0