SOUTH WINDSOR, July 24 – There were two big plays in Avon’s loss to defending Northeast Regional champion RCP American Legion baseball team on Saturday.
The most visible one was the ejection of Avon catcher Jeremy Zarwanski and manager Donny Annicelle for the use of an illegal bat. But the play that resonated into Sunday’s elimination game against Tolland was Justin Olson’s single in the first inning.
Olson accidentally stepped on the foot of RCP first baseman Leo Thomas and rolled his ankle, injuring his left foot. Olson was able to finish the game at second base but he ran into trouble when he came into the game as a relief pitcher in the eighth inning. When he pitches, Olson lands on his left foot. RCP scored twice in the bottom of the eighth Saturday to beat Avon, 3-2.
It wasn’t much better on Sunday. Olson tried to pitch and had one good inning of work. But Tolland was able to get bats going and eliminated Avon, 10-0 in six innings in the Northern Division finals of the Connecticut American Legion state tournament at Rotary Field.
Olson struck out three, walked three and hit a batter. Tolland built a 5-0 lead after three innings. And Tolland’s Sean Kelly was able to shut down the Avon offense, limiting Post 201 to just three hits.
“We had a real good chance of winning (Saturday) and we came up short,” Avon manager Donny Annicelle said. “Sometimes, it has repercussions that you can’t recover from. (Tolland) hit the ball very, very well and we didn’t play our best game. But that’s baseball.”
Tolland (21-4) had 14 hits in the game that was ended in the sixth inning due to the Legion mercy rule once Tolland built a 10-run lead.
Olson put down Tolland in order in the first inning. But things began to unravel in the second inning. Olson hit Thomas Slane, who moved to third base on a double from Brian Maher. Olson got a second out when Kyle Penney struck out looking.
But Clayton Keane coaxed a walk from Olson to load the bases. Brandon Kallenback had a RBI single to left field while Nick Paasch hit a two-RBI double to center field for a 3-0 lead. Avon did throw out Kallenback at home plate trying to score from first base.
Kelly, the Tolland starter, kept Avon off balance the entire game. He walked just one and fanned six. Will Thramann had Avon’s first hit in the fourth inning – a single down the right field line. Joe Suski and Sean Del Gallo had back-to-back singles in the sixth inning but Kelly fanned Thramann and Jack Stokesbury to end the inning.
Avon’s three hits tied a season-low for hits. Post 201 also had three hits in a 2-1 win over Bristol on June 28.
Tolland scored two more runs in the third inning on a wild pitch and a Brian Maher single. Tolland added three additional runs in the fourth on a RBI single from Matt Curtis, a two-RBI single from Thomas Slane for an 8-0 lead.
“(After each game this weekend), I told the kids that I was very proud of them,” Annicelle said. “They inspired me the way they came back from that adversity on Saturday (ejection of Zarwanski and Annicelle). They were disappointed but we’ll have everyone coming back next year if they choose to do so. They can all get better, get healthier and get stronger.”
It’s the second deepest run by an Avon American Legion baseball team in the tournament. Post 201 also won their second Zone 1 championship, adding this pennant to the one they captured in 2013.
“It’s a little bitter now but when they look back on this season, they’ll appreciate what they accomplished,” Annicelle said.
Tolland 10, Avon 0 (6)
At South Windsor
Avon (20-8) 000 000 – 0-3-0
Tolland (21-4) 032 302 – 10-14-0
Justin Olson, Brady Williamson (3), Sean Del Gallo (6) and Jeremy Zarwanski; Sean Kelly and Kyle Penney; WP: Kelly; LP: Olson (4-3); 2B: Nick Paasch (T), Brian Maher (T)
Northern Regional finals
At South Windsor
Four teams (double elimination)
Saturday, July 23
Game 1: New London 6, Tolland 2
Game 2: RCP 3, Avon 2 (8)
Sunday, July 24
Game 3: Tolland 10, Avon 0 (6)
Game 4: RCP 1, New London 0 (8)
Monday, July 25
Game 5: Tolland vs. New London, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 26
Game 6: RCP vs. winner game 5, 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 27
Game 7: If necessary, 6:30 p.m.