WINDSOR LOCKS, May 29 – Avon High coach Jonathan Yolles could see the excitement and energy that his Falcons brought to the field Friday in the NCCC Tournament at Veteran’s Field.
“They were very excited about this,” he said. “This is the most energy I’ve seen from them all year.”
Avon needed that energy and some poise. The Falcons beat league co-champion Stafford in the tournament semifinal, 10-5, on Friday afternoon, sparked by Stephen Carrier with a home run, double and two RBI.
In the championship game against Coventry on Friday night, Avon led by eight runs in the fourth inning. Thanks to five walks, two hit batters and a few timely hits by the Patriots tied the game in the sixth inning.
But Avon’s Andrew LeDuc scored on a throwing error in the seventh inning and sophomore hurler Justin Olson returned to the mound in the bottom of the seventh to earn the victory and help the Falcons capture their first NCCC Tournament championship since 2010 with a 9-8 victory.
It was a sweet victory in the final NCCC contest for the Falcon baseball team which moves to the Central Connecticut Conference next fall.
“This meant everything to us,” said Carrier, who was named most valuable player of the tournament. He was 4-for-6 with a double, home run and four RBI in Avon’s two games. “Our goal was to make it here and win the championship.”
Avon began the season with a league championship as a goal. But they have a young team – three sophomores started last night’s championship game. After a 10-day stretch in April that saw the Falcons lose three straight NCCC games to Somers, Coventry and Suffield, the league title faded away and the league tournament crown remained the only viable goal.
Last Saturday, Olson struck out 11 last week as Avon beat Suffield, 1-0 in a game that decided who would receive the fourth and final spot in the league tournament.
“It’s a big deal to these guys,” Yolles said. “They’re pumped. This is what you play for.”
Avon (15-7) was in command early against Coventry. Olson started the game and gave up just one hit in the first innings as Avon built a 5-0 lead. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the second inning with a strikeout and getting Daniel Lawrence to pop out on the first pitch.
The Falcons took advantage of two Coventry errors on attempted pickoff plays to take a 2-0 lead. They scored three runs in the third on a two-RBI double from Carrier and a RBI double from Ian McDonald. Avon extended its lead to 8-0 with three runs in the fourth inning on a RBI single from Olson and a two-RBI single from sophomore catcher Jeremy Zarwanski.
But the Avon bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Coventry scored six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on four hits, four walks and one hit batter. The Patriots added two more in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 8-8.
Avon remained poised. In the top of the seventh, LeDuc singled with one out with a fading line drive to center field that Coventry’s Ben Norstrom nearly caught. LeDuc moved to second on a passed ball and scored when Bryan St. Jean grounded to third base and the third baseman threw the ball away for a 9-8 lead.
It was the fifth error of the game for the Patriots, who allowed four unearned runs.
Olson made sure Avon capitalized on the opportunity. After pitching into the fourth inning, he moved to shortstop. But he wanted the chance to close out the victory. He put down the side in order, striking out two.
“These guys just battle back,” Yolles said. “They never give up. They haven’t given up all year. They fight, fight and fight. Good things happen when you keeping fighting and working hard.”
Reliever Connor Harris did a nice job, pitching nearly two innings and allowing just one hit. With Coventry threatening to seize command of the contest, Harris kept the Falcons in the game.
Zarwinski had an outstanding game. He was 4-for-4 with two RBI and a double while Olson was 3-for-3. Matt Boone had two hits.
Against Stafford, Avon had 11 hits and ran out to an 8-0 lead after four innings. McDonald and Will Boone limited the Bulldogs to just five hits.
Carrier had a long home run to right/center field, a double and two RBI. At the plate, McDonald was 2-for-4 with a double. Zarwanski was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI while Sean DelGallo had a triple.
The Falcons must regroup quickly for the CIAC Class L tournament that begins Monday. Avon is the No. 17 seed in the Class L tournament and travels to Groton to face Fitch (13-7) in a 4 p.m. If the Falcons prevail, they will play again on Tuesday against either top-seeded Bristol Eastern (17-3) or No. 32 Branford (8-12).
NOTES: Yolles was thrilled his team played two error-less ballgames. … Olson and DelGallo were named to the All-NCCC baseball team prior to the championship game. Canton’s James Treacy and Granby’s Jake King were also named to the All-NCCC squad. … Stafford and Somers shared the NCCC championship with 15-1 records. … In the regular season, the Falcons lost to Somers (5-2), Stafford (5-3) and Coventry (5-2).
NCCC Tournament championship
Avon 9, Coventry 8
At Windsor Locks
Avon (15-7) 113 300 1 — 9-14-0
Coventry (15-7) 000 602 0 — 8-6-5
Justin Olson, Kyle Emery (4), Connor Harris (4), Olson (7) and Jeremy Zarwanski; Michael Levesque, Luke Terrance (3), Nicholas Erskine (4), Malachai Emond (5) and Justin Mancino; WP: Olson; LP: Edmond; 2B: Edmond (C), Norstrom (C), Steve Carrier (A), Jeremy Zarwanski (A), Ian McDonald (A)
NCCC Tournament semifinal
Avon 10, Stafford 5
At Windsor Locks
Avon (14-7) 033 201 1 — 10-11-0
Stafford (18-3) 000 301 1 — 5-5-1
Ian McDonald, Will Boone (4) and Jeremy Zarwanski; Hunter Davis, Brandon Kallenbach (5) and Luke Broadhurst; WP: McDonald, LP: Davis; 2B: Steve Carrier (A), McDonald (A), Zarwanski (A), Broadhurst (S), Kyle Ramsey (S); 3B: Sean DelGallo (A); HR: Carrier (A)
Coventry def. Somers
After losing twice to the Spartans in the regular season, Coventry beat Somers, which won a share of its second straight NCCC championship.
Recent NCCC Tournament championship games
2015: Avon 9, Coventry 8
2014: Suffield 7, Avon 5
2013: rained out
2012: Ellington 7, Enfield 2
2011: Avon 2, Enfield 1
2010: Canton 8, Ellington 3