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Simsbury Legion can see chance for Zone 1 title after sweeping Avon

Simsbury's E.J. Lavoie pitched over eight innings of relief in Post 84's 10-7 win over Avon in 12 innings Sunday.

Simsbury’s E.J. Lavoie pitched over eight innings of relief in Post 84’s 10-7 win over Avon in 12 innings Sunday.

SIMSBURY – The Simsbury American Legion baseball team took advantage of their opportunities and are now in a position to win the Zone 1 championship this summer.

Post 84 swept a doubleheader Sunday evening at Memorial Field from defending Zone 1 champion Avon. Simsbury scored three runs with two outs in the top of the 12th inning to top Avon, 10-7 in the completion of game on June 25 suspended after seven innings.

In the nightcap, Simsbury outlasted Avon’s Michael Castellani with two hits in the bottom of the seventh inning and a 1-0 decision.

The two teams complete their season series on Monday night at 5:45 p.m. at Memorial Field. Simsbury (15-4) has four games remaining after playing Avon on Monday night and another win over Post 201 would put Simsbury in good position to win its first Zone 1 title since 2008. 

Avon (17-5) completes its Zone 1 schedule on Tuesday night against Winsted. A win over Simsbury on Monday night and against Winsted would force Simsbury to capture its remaining four games (Unionville, Wolcott twice, Southington) to win the championship. Simsbury owns the tiebreaker thanks to winning two of three games between the two teams.

Both teams have already qualified for the state tournament. However, the zone champion gets an automatic bye into the double elimination portion of the state tournament.

“It’s a different player, a different lineup each game,” Simsbury coach Tom Vincent, Jr., said. “Today, a lot of people stepped up. We played good defense and made the plays.”

Avon's Michael Castellani struck out seven and allowed three hits in a 1-0 loss to Simsbury Sunday.

Avon’s Michael Castellani struck out seven and allowed three hits in a 1-0 loss to Simsbury Sunday.

Castellani gave Simsbury few opportunities through six innings. He allowed just one hit and struck out seven.

But Simsbury didn’t wilt, either. Post 84 starter Jamie Coen, who recently completed his sophomore year at Eastern Connecticut State University, didn’t allow a hit over five innings. He struck out four and allowed just two runners on base.

Reliever Marty Coyne walked two Avon batters to lead off the sixth inning (Andrew LeDuc, Ben Lombard) but LeDuc was thrown out trying to advance to third base on a fly ball to right field. And Lombard was picked off first base by Coyne to end the inning.

Simsbury second baseman Josh Figueroa, who was a freshman at Fairfield this spring, made a tremendous defensive play at second base in the fourth inning with a leaping grab to rob Avon catcher Cody Doyle of a hit.

In the bottom of the seventh inning with the score 0-0, Simsbury’s E.J. Lavoie led off the inning with a single down the third base line. He moved to second on a successful sacrifice bunt from Chris VandeBogart. Avon intentionally walked Andrew Girard, who played at Eastern Connecticut this spring.

On the first pitch, Simsbury catcher Ryan Gothers slapped a single that got through the Avon infield and Lavoie raced all the way home with the game-winning run.

“He went up there with a purpose,” Vincent said. “He wasn’t going to get behind Castellani (in the count).”

Gothers, who just completed his junior year at East Granby High, said he was just trying to drive a single through the infield. “I was just thinking single up the middle,” he said. “I tried not to overswing and keep it in play.”

The first game was the completion of a game begun on June 25 and tied 7-7 after seven innings and suspended due to darkness. Avon had a 7-5 lead but Simsbury scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to tie the contest.

In extra innings, Avon pitcher Matt Boone pitched four strong innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit. Lavoie, Simsbury’s pitcher, went five innings and struck out five. He also allowed one hit.

Simsbury broke through in the 12th inning against pitcher Connor Dunn. VandeBogart led off the 12th with a single to right field and moved to second on a walk to Gothers. Each man advanced a base on a sacrifice bunt. Simsbury’s Dakota Hunter drew a walk to load the bases with one out.

A ground ball to third base by Jack Nedorostek scored one run. A RBI single by Jake King scored a second run and the third run came in on a ground ball to shortstop by Lavoie for a 10-7 Simsbury lead.

Avon threatened in the 11th inning. Boone reached on an error and moved to second on a successful sacrifice bunt from Ben Lombard. Sean DelGallo walked and each man moved up a base when Simsbury first baseman Jake Wood raced to catch a fly ball deep in foul territory. But Lavoie got Doyle to strike out to end the threat.

“We pitched well but we have to hit the ball better,” Avon coach Brian Doyle said. Post 201 had just one hit and struck out 11 times in 12 innings of play on Sunday at Memorial Field. “We had our changes and didn’t come through. It sets up a big game on Monday night.

“I thought (Matt) Boone was outstanding. He gave us a chance to win,” Doyle said. “Castellani was literally lights out (on the mound). Other than that, we didn’t do too much.

“I told the kids we’re a good team and I believe in them,” he said. “We’ll bounce back.”

NOTES: Simsbury has won seven of its last eight games. … Lavoie pitched 3 1/3 innings of relief on June 25 and pitched five innings Sunday. He goes into the books pitching 8 1/3 innings of relief in the 12 inning contest, allowing six hits and striking out eight. … After its game with Avon on Monday night, Simsbury is at Unionville on Tuesday, at Wolcott on Wednesday, hosts Wolcott on Thursday night and finishes the regular season at Southington on Friday night. … Simsbury has seven Canton players on the team — pitcher Kevin Gurry, pitcher Chris Enns, outfielder Chris VandeBogart, first baseman Jake Wood, infielder Brendan Reilly, third baseman Jeff Nedorostek (Avon Old Farms) and pitcher Peter Myers (Master’s School).

Simsbury 1, Avon 0
At Simsbury
Avon (17-5)              000  000  0 – 0-0-0
Simsbury (15-4)       000  000  1 – 1-3-0
Michael Castellani and Cody Doyle; Jamie Coen, Marty Cayne (6) and Ryan Gothers; WP: Cayne (4-1); LP: Castellani

Simsbury 10, Avon 7 (12)
At Simsbury
Simsbury (14-4)         003  202  000  003 – 10-8-4
Avon (17-4)                020  320  000  000 – 7-6-2
Peter Myers, E.J. Lavoie (4) and Andrew Girard; Justin Olsen, Matt Williamson (5), Matt Boone (6), Connor Dunn (12) and Cody Doyle: WP: Lavoie (2-0); LP: Dunn; 2B: Ben Suski (A), Dakota Hunter (S), Lavoie (S)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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