SIMSBURY, July 26 – They were looking to pull the ultimate upset. The Simsbury Sabercats, who won just five of 20 regular season games in the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League, had their chances to send regular season champion West Hartford home early.
The Sabercats captured game 1 of the best-of-3 semifinal series and were tied with the Thunder after five innings in game 2.
However, Simsbury couldn’t convert on its opportunities and when the Sabercats stumbled, West Hartford pounced. The Thunder scored six runs in the final two innings to grab a victory in game 2 and rode the stellar pitching of Sam Spencer to win game 3, 5-1 and eliminate the pesky Sabercats.
Simsbury may have gone 5-15 in the regular season but over the last two and a half weeks, the Sabercats went 6-4 including a playoff victory over defending champion Tobacco Valley to earn a shot at the Thunder in the semifinals.
“Over the last 2 ½ weeks, we played to our potential,” Simsbury coach Bill Silvanic said. “They played with courage and were not afraid to go out and win.”
The Sabercats consist of players from Avon (6), Granby (4), Simsbury (2), New Hartford (2) and Windsor (2). Players must be enrolled in college to play in the league. They don’t have to be playing for their school’s teams.
Simsbury (7-17) got off to a good start in game one, scoring seven runs in the first two innings in a 7-5 victory. Avon’s Sean Lanahan had a two-RBI double while Avon’s Connor Doyle and Simsbury’s Rich Graef had RBI singles – all in the first inning.
Simsbury had six of their seven hits in the first two innings before West Hartford reliever Matt D’Orsi shut down the Sabercats. Over the final 5 2/3 innings, D’Orsi gave up one hit and struck out seven.
Avon’s Andrew Beaule had a strong effort on the mound for the Sabercats, scattering eight hits and allowing five runs over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four.
In game two, West Hartford took a 5-2 lead but Simsbury added a run in the fourth when Simsbury’s Josh Holihan singled. He moved to second base on a fielder’s choice and scored on a RBI single by Doyle to cut the lead to two runs.
Simsbury tied the game in the fifth. Gremelspacher singled and scored on a RBI double by New Britain’s Dan Reynolds. New Hartford’s Dan Bittel drew a two-out walk and scored on a RBI triple by his brother, Adam, to tie the game at 5-5.
West Hartford (17-7) seized command with five runs in the sixth and another in the seventh for an 11-5 advantage. But the Thunder nearly threw it all away in the bottom of the seventh inning. Thanks to four walks and a hit batter, Simsbury scored four runs to cut the lead to two. With one out, they had runners on second and third base.
But the Thunder relievers Nick Harlow and Nick Winn got two key outs to snuff out the threat and secure the 11-9 victory.
In the decisive game three, West Hartford left Simsbury with few opportunities. Spencer allowed just three hits and struck out six. Simsbury had only one baserunner through five innings thanks to an error and that runner was erased with a double play.
Avon’s Jason Moore broke up Spencer’s no-hit bid in the sixth with a single to centerfield but he was erased quickly with a double play to end the inning.
“He was our No. 3 pitcher all season,” West Hartford coach Nick Marsh said. “We used guys when they were available. We had three pitchers with an ERA under one. Anyone of them could be our ace.”
West Hartford took a 3-0 lead after four innings on three unearned runs. In the second inning, David Brandt reached on an error, stole second and third base and scored on a RBI single from Chad Smedberg.
In the fourth inning, Chris Demoras doubled, moved to third on a ground ball and scored on an error when Lanahan, the Sabercat’s starting pitcher, scooped up a ground ball from Dino Belesavo and overthrew the first baseman. Belsavo scored later for a 3-0 lead.
Lanahan pitched well, allowing four hits and striking out eight in 6 2/3 innings. He walked four. West Hartford broke through in the sixth with another two runs for a 5-0 lead.
“I was proud to be anywhere with this team – on the field or in the dugout. They are a top notch bunch of kids. Everyone was an equal part of this team,” Silvanic said.
West Hartford advanced to face Manchester in the best-of-3 championship final.
West Hartford 5, Simsbury 1
Simsbury 000 000 1 – 1-3-3
West Hartford 010 202 x – 5-4-2
Sean Lanahan, Tim Lusardi (6) and Dan Bittel; Sam Spencer and Adam Roderick; WP: Spencer; LP: Lanahan; 2B: Chris Demoras (WH)
2013 Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League
Final regular season standings: West Hartford Thunder 15-6, Manchester Mavericks 13-8, Southington Shock 11-9, Tobacco Valley Renegades 11-9, Glastonbury Arrows 6-14, Simsbury Sabercats 5-15
Simsbury 6, Tobacco Valley 3
Southington 7, Glastonbury 2
Semifinals (Best of 3)
Simsbury 7, West Hartford 5
West Hartford 11, Simsbury 9
West Hartford 5, Simsbury 1
Manchester 8, Southington 1
Southington 7, Manchester 5
Manchester 1, Southington 0
Championship series (best-of-3)
Manchester vs. West Hartford