AVON, July 20 – It’s been nearly a week since the Avon American Legion baseball team had hit the diamond in a meaningful contest. Post 201 had three, clutch two-out hits to help beat Berlin on Wednesday afternoon, 3-0 in game one of the best-of-3 state tournament quarterfinal series.
The two teams resume the series on Thursday at Buckingham Field with game two at 1:30 p.m. If necessary, game three will begin at 3:30 p.m. The series winner will advance to the four team, double-elimination Northern Regional final this weekend in South Windsor.
Avon (19-6), which beat Unionville in a rain-shortened contest last Thursday, won its first state tournament game since 2012. Pitcher Justin Olson went the distance, scattering nine hits and striking out two. He walked three batters and hit two. But he still earned the victory
“He always does the job for us,” Avon coach Donny Annicelle said of Olson. “We tried to pitch him against the aces in our zone. He keeps us in games. It was a typical Justin performance.”
Said Olson, “I definitely didn’t have my best stuff but (my teammates) were making plays behind me. We got the job done.”
Berlin (20-14-2) had their opportunities. Post 43, which had a six-game winning streak halted, stranded 11 runners on base. They had runners on first and third base with one out in the sixth inning. But Olson got Nick Carroll to pop out to Avon shortstop Chris Jacobs on one pitch. Olson ended the rally when Mike Giove flew out to center field.
In the seventh inning, Berlin had runners on first and second base with two outs. But Olson got Kevin Roy to ground out to end the contest. Olson gave up three hits in the seventh inning but hung in there.
“He is a warrior. It was good to see him battle through that and get the final out,” Annicelle said.
Trailing by three runs in the seventh, Berlin tried to force extra innings. With one out, Alex Dastoli walked and Alan Guild doubled. Dastoli moved to third base but Guild overran second base and was tagged out. That likely cost Berlin a run.
Teammate Nicholas Naples followed with an RBI single to cut the Avon lead to 3-1. That was followed by a single from Cody Lacasse that moved Napes to third base. Naples cut the lead to one, 3-2, on a RBI single from Jared Zima
But with runners on first and second base, Olson got Roy to ground out to the second baseman Will Thramann to end the contest and give Avon a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series.
Avon had just five hits and they made them count. “We had a lot of key hits with two outs and I was trying to move baserunners along and make things happen,” Annicelle said. “Against a good fielding team like that, you try to get as many people as possible in scoring position and hopefully, you’ll get some timely hits.”
Avon took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Sean Del Gallo reached on an error and moved to second base on a successful sacrifice from Thramann. With two outs, Del Gallo scored on a RBI single to center field from Jeremy Zarwanski.
Post 201 extended its lead in the third inning. Del Gallo singled to center field and with one out in the inning, Olson ripped a RBI double to center field to give Avon a 2-0 edge.
In the fifth inning, Thramann was hit by a pitch and moved to second base on a walk to Olson. With two outs, Andrew LeDuc walked to load the bases. Chris Jacob’s single to center field was enough to drive home Thramann for a 3-0 lead.
Jacobs finished 2-for-2 with one RBI to lead Avon. For Berlin, Jared Zima was 2-for-4 with a RBI while Alan Guild was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
It was the first game between the two programs since 2010 when the teams played a pair of non-league contests. They split the 2010 series with Avon taking one game, 5-0 and Berlin taking the second game, 6-2.
Avon 3, Berlin 0
Berlin (20-14-2) 000 000 2 – 2-9-1
Avon (19-6) 101 010 x – 3-5-1
Matt Verncatola, Dan Pirruccio (6) and unknown; Justin Olson and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Olson (4-2); LP: Verncatola; 2B: Jared Zima (B), Alan Guild (B) 2, Olson (A)