SOUTH WINDSOR, July 28 – Throughout the post-season, Simsbury American Legion baseball manager Thomas E. Vincent would often say that he hoped his team’s best baseball was ahead of them. Unfortunately for Post 84, it wasn’t.
Simsbury squandered opportunities, hit batters, had wild pitches and passed balls. It wasn’t the recipe for success, especially against defending Northeast Regional champion Rocky Hill/Cromwell/Portland (RCP) in Tuesday night’s Northern Division final.
RCP gave up just three hits and three RCP pitchers combined to strike out 13 Simsbury batters to eliminate Post 84 with a 5-2 decision at Rotary Field. The win puts RCP into this weekend’s best-of-3 state championship series for the third time in the last four years.
Twice, Simsbury (25-5) left the bases loaded. They stranded runners on second and third base in the first inning. They left 13 runners on base.
It was a tough loss to swallow after a spectacular season for Post 84.
“We have to be proud of what we accomplished and not dwell on this loss here,” said Simsbury’s Jake Wood, who had a season-ending hamstring injury in Saturday’s 11-inning loss to RCP.
For the first time in franchise history, Simsbury won consecutive Zone 1 titles. They swept Bristol in a best-of-3 series to earn a spot in the Northern Regional finals. But they couldn’t beat RCP. Simsbury was one out away from earning a victory in the opening game of the Northern Regional Saturday but coughed up a two-run lead in the eighth and an one-run lead in the 11th inning in a 4-3 loss.
Simsbury looked much better in an 8-0 win over South Windsor and a 8-1 win over New London. But they didn’t get good pitching against RCP nor a key hit.
Pete Myers (5-1) got the start for Post 84 but was ineffective due to back spasms. RCP’s Kevin Radziowicz led off the game with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and took third on an infield ground ball. He scored on a wild pitch.
RCP made it 3-0 in the second inning. With two outs, Nick Queiroz singled. Simsbury’s Matthew Gill replaced Myers on the mound and gave up a single to Radziowicz and a bunt single to Cole Ogarzalek to load the bases. One run scored on a wild pitch and another scored on a passed ball.
“We had way too many walks (nine), hit batters (2) and other mistakes,” Simsbury coach Thomas E. Vincent said. “We hurt ourselves.”
And RCP starter Trevor Lord made big pitches. In the first inning, Simsbury had runners on second and third base with two outs. But Lord, who allowed just two hits and struck out nine in six innings, fanned Mike Amato to end the threat.
In the fourth inning, Simsbury rallied with two outs. They loaded the bases with a pair of walks and a hit batter. But Lord struck out Jack Nedorostek to end the rally.
“The energy level (in our dugout) was ridiculous,” Lord said. “I figured out early in the game the best way to pitch them was to jam them inside.”
Trailing 4-0, Simsbury tried to rally in the seventh. Lord led off the inning with consecutive walks to Jake Nichols and Jordan Whaley. RCP’s Steve Sevigny came out of the bullpen and struck out the first batter he faced. Then, Sevigny loaded the bases with another walk.
A run scored when Jack Patrina grounded out to second base and Post 84 cut the lead to 4-2 when Whaley scored on a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Gothers.
But RCP’s Cole Ogarzalek, who pitched 10 innings in RCP’s win over Simsbury on Saturday, came on to end the rally. He gave up a long hit to Amato to right field. It looked like would fall in but RCP right fielder Kevin Larkin chased it down and reached up at seemingly the last instant to grab the ball out of the air and save at least two runs.
“We were one hit away (from taking the lead),” Vincent said. “When he hit that, I thought it was a gap shot.”
Ogarzalek pitched the final two innings and gave up just one hit and a walk to secure the victory.
“I have a bunch of guys who have been here before,” RCP manager T.J. Grande said. “They all want the ball. When it gets to the seventh inning, I have guys in my ear telling me to give them the ball, give them the ball. It’s nice to have those type of kids who want to go out there.”
Lavigne had two hits for Simsbury while Nichols had the other Simsbury hit. Radziowicz had two hits for RCP, which is seeking its first-ever state title. A year ago, RCP lost to Cheshire in the best-of-3 final for the state championship but Connecticut was able to send two teams to the Northeast Regional, which RCP captured.
NOTES: Simsbury, which was 4-2 in the post-season, had six Canton players on its roster – Myers, Nedorostek, Wood, Kevin Gurry, Chris Enns and Brendan Reilly. Myers allowed five hits over six innings in Simsbury’s 8-1 win over Bristol. …. Enns started the first game against RCP and didn’t allow a hit in six innings of work, striking out three. … In the postseason, Nedorostek hit .222 with two hits and two RBI. … It was the second straight year that Simsbury was among the final four teams in the state. … Simsbury won its only American Legion state title in 2003. They finished second to Bristol in 2004.
RCP 5, Simsbury 2
At South Windsor
Simsbury (25-5) 000 000 200 — 2-3-1
RCP (26-3) 120 100 01x — 5-7-0
Peter Myers, Matthew Gill (2), Jake Nichols (8) and Ryan Gothers; Tucker Lord, Steve Sevigny (7), Cole Ogarzalek (7) and Kevin Radziowicz; WP: Lord (3-0), LP: Myers (5-1); 2B: Nichols (S)
Northern Division finals
At South Windsor (Rotary Field)
Saturday, July 25
Game 1: New London 2, South Windsor 0
Game 2: RCP 4, Simsbury 3 (11)
Sunday, July 26
Game 5: Simsbury 8, South Windsor 0
Game 6: RCP 5, New London 1
Monday, July 27
Game 9: Simsbury 8, New London 1
Tuesday, July 28
Game 11: Final — RCP 5, Simsbury 2
At Palmer Field, Middletown
Friday, July 31
Game 1: RCP (26-3) vs. Stamford, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 1
Game 2: 11 a.m.
Game 3, 2:30 p.m., if necessary