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Finishing with a flourish, Avon dominates Bristol to win Zone 1 championship

A happy Avon American Legion baseball team at Bristol's Muzzy Field after beating Post 2 for the second consecutive evening to win the Zone 1 championship.

A happy Avon American Legion baseball team at Bristol’s Muzzy Field after beating Post 2 for the second consecutive evening to win the Zone 1 championship.

BRISTOL, July 12 –It was 10 days ago in Simsbury that the Avon American Legion baseball team let an early lead slip away in a two-run loss. It was Avon’s tenth straight loss to Post 84. It could have started a slide or an end-of-the-season fade.

But Post 201 didn’t let it happen. Avon scored three runs with one out in the top of the seventh inning to beat Simsbury, 4-2 in the second game of a doubleheader at Memorial Field. That sparked a late-season surge that has seen Avon win six of their last seven games and their second Zone 1 championship.

Avon (17-5) clinched its first Zone 1 title since 2013 with a dominating 9-2 win over Bristol at Muzzy Field on Tuesday night, beating Post 2 for the second straight evening. On Monday night, Avon beat Bristol, 4-0.

Post 201 led by five runs after the first three innings. Pitcher Kyle Emery went the distance on the mound, scattering four hits and striking out three as he improved to 5-1 on the season. Justin Olson was 2-for-3 with a double and four RBI. Jeremy Zarwanski and Emery each had two-RBI singles for Avon.

“It is definitely a big deal for us,” Del Gallo said. “We started (the season) strong and had a few downfalls but we battled right back. It really means a lot – not just to us but the whole town.”

Members of the Avon American Legion baseball celebrate beating Bristol to win the Zone 1 crown.

Members of the Avon American Legion baseball celebrate beating Bristol to win the Zone 1 crown.

Del Gallo was well aware of Avon’s recent tendency to end the Legion campaign with a thud. In 2014, Avon was 17-3 before losing three straight games to Simsbury. Avon beat Winsted in the season finale but was upset by Hartford in the first round of the state tournament. A year ago, Avon was 11-6 at one point but won just two of their final eight games.

“Avon has gotten to a point and then we tended to fizzle out,” Del Gallo said. “We’ve been pushing ourselves the extra mile. We want to finish strong.”

Post 201 still has two regular season games remaining on Wednesday at Terryville and on Thursday when they host Unionville. Avon opens in the state tournament in a best-of-3 series on Wednesday, July 20.

Avon has allowed just four runs in the last five games, including a pair against Bristol (15-8). Avon had no errors in the two wins over Bristol. Connor Harris (6-0) went the distance in earning the win on Monday night against Bristol while Emery did the same on Tuesday.

“Our pitching has been solid all year,” Avon’s first-year American Legion coach Donny Annicelle said. “We throw strikes. We’re good hitters. We have good pitching and I think we rise to the occasion. Sometimes, it takes us a while to get there but when they do come through, they do it in big spots.”

Avon took command quickly against Bristol, which dropped an emotional 5-3 decision to Southington Monday night in 12 innings. It was the completion of a game earlier this season that had been suspended.

Del Gallo, who had his 17-game hitting streak snapped Monday, led off the game with a single. He scored on a RBI double from Olson.

In the third inning, Avon sent 10 men to the plate and scored five runs on four hits. Consecutive singles from Brady Williamson and Joe Suski and a walk to Del Gallo loaded the bases. Will Thramann drove in one run with a fly ball to left field for a 2-0 lead. One batter later, Zarwanski’s two-RBI single to center field gave Avon a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, Emery also had a two-RBI single to swell the lead to 6-0.

A sacrifice fly from Olson in the fourth drove in Suski for a 7-0 lead. A two-RBI single from Olson in the sixth inning increased the lead to 9-0.

Avon's Brady Williamson slides into third base with a stolen base as Bristol's Ben Mazzone tries to control the ball.

Avon’s Brady Williamson safely slides into third base with a stolen base as Bristol’s Ben Mazzone tries to control the ball.

“This really means the world to us,” Annicelle said. “We began the season with shirts in the memory of Charlie Dew, who passed away this winter. This win is for him and his family.”

Dew was one of the early coaches of the Avon American Legion baseball program in the 1990s. All year, the players have been wearing shirts under their uniforms that proclaim, “Just Dew It.”

“None of these kids have won the zone before so I know it is special to them,” Annicelle said.

“It means a lot,” said Williamson, who was 2-for-3 at the plate. “These guys are my brothers and it’s good to win it with them. It’s like a brotherhood.”

NOTE: Suski was also 2-for-3 at the plate. He reached base three times and scored three runs. … Jack Stokesbury chased down a deep, fly ball in center field to close out the ballgame. … Simsbury had won the past two Zone 1 championships. … Avon won four straight games over Bristol and seven of the last eight meetings between the two squads.

Avon 9, Bristol 2
At Bristol
Avon (17-5)                    105  102  0 – 9-10-0
Bristol (15-8)                  000  002  0 – 2-4-2
Kyle Emery and Jeremy Zarwanski; Andrew Owsianko, Ricky Lemke (4) and Nick Sassu; WP: Emery (5-1); LP: Oswianko; 2B: Zach Marquis (B), Justin Olson (A); 3B: none; HR: none

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.

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