AVON, July 19 – Baseball players make mistakes all the time. It’s the nature of the game. It could be a dropped fly ball or a ground ball that scoots under your glove. Sometimes, your mistake costs your team the game.
The real test is how one reacts after making a mistake – especially one that costs you a victory.
In the sweltering 95 degree heat Wednesday, the Avon American Legion baseball team was on the verge of sweeping Southington to win their best-of-3 series and advance to Saturday’s four-team Northern Division finals at Muzzy Field in Bristol. Post 201 had an eight-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
But Avon coach Donny Annicelle unknowingly put a player into a game who was ineligible. He had attended a player showcase event over the weekend. Southington manager Marc Verderame notified the umpire and they consulted with Zone 1 chair Tim Vincent of Simsbury, who was at the game sitting behind the backstop.
The player was declared ineligible and the result was a 1-0 forfeit win for Southington in game two of the three-game series forcing a decisive game three.
Avon (21-6) stood tall. Post 201 pitcher Justin Olson went the distance, allowing just five hits and striking out nine as Avon advanced with a 4-3 decision over Southington. Miles Borestein was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
“They rebounded and came up big on a hot day,” Annicelle said. “I’m real proud of them. (The player) felt bad but everyone rallied around him and said they would pick him up and that’s what they did.”
Minutes after the forfeiture, game three began and Avon scored two runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead on Borenstein’s two-out, two RBI single to center field. Will Thramann was on base thanks to a fielder’s choice and Olson was on thanks to a double.
Avon extended the lead to 3-0 in the third inning. Thramann doubled to left field and moved to third base on a ground ball. He scored on a sacrifice fly from Jeremy Zarwanski.
Post 201 took a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning when Chris Jacobs reached on an error, moved to second on a balk and took third base on a sacrifice fly. Jacobs scored on a RBI single from Brady Williamson.
Avon’s defense helped out. In the second inning, Southington loaded the bases with one out but Kyle Semmel grounded into a double play to end the inning. He was tagged out by Del Gallo, Avon’s first baseman, who fired the ball to Zarwanski at the plate, who tagged out Jake Babon, who was trying to score from third base.
Southington cut the lead to one run in the sixth. Babon’s RBI single with the bases loaded and one out cut the Avon lead to 4-1. After a strikeout, Brandon Kohl’s RBI double to center field drove in two runs, trimming the lead to 4-3. But Avon center fielder Joe Suski threw out Babon, who was trying to score from first base to end the inning.
“Justin pitched great in the third game,” Annicelle said.
Avon controlled game two, building an 8-0 lead with 12 hits after six innings. Catcher Ryan Ollestad was 3-for-4 with one RBI while Thramann was 2-for-4 with two RBI. Olson was 2-for-4 with one RBI. Suski also had two hits.
Starting pitcher Kyle Emery went 5 1/3 inning, allowing just three Southington hits. After 60 pitches and an 8-0 lead, Annicelle removed Emery from the game with an eye on a possible game on Saturday. New American Legion pitching rules this season require two days rest after throwing 60 pitches. If a pitcher throws 61, it is three days rest.
Annicelle brought in reliever Jake Coppen. He threw six pitches before the Southington coaching staff alerted the umpires. Players aren’t allowed to participate in player showcase events once the state tournament begins, according to state American Legion baseball rules on their website (Rule 6D). Annicelle wasn’t aware that Coppen had participated. Coppen is not eligible to play in any of Avon’s remaining contests.
Emery and Chris Jacobs will be available to pitch on Saturday. Connor Harris, who had a 3-0 complete game victory over Southington on Tuesday and is 8-0 this summer, is eligible to pitch again Sunday. Olson can return to the mound on Monday.
Fortunately for Avon, three of the four Northern Division series also went to three games so pitching was taxed for three of the teams playing in Bristol this weekend.
West Hartford stunned two-time defending state American Legion champion RCP (Rocky Hill, Cromwell, Portland) with a 2-1 win on Tuesday and a 4-1 victory in game three on Wednesday. The South Windsor and Willimantic series also went three games.
Southington 1, Avon 0, forfeit
Avon (20-6) 400 004 – 8-12-0
Southington (20-7) 000 000 — 0-3-1
Kyle Emery, Jake Coppen (6) and Ryan Ollestad; McDonough, Virelli (6) and Josh Panerella; 2B: none; 3B: none; HR: none. Game called in the sixth inning due to an ineligible player.
Avon 4, Southington 3
Southington (20-8) 000 003 0 – 3-5-1
Avon (21-6) 201 100 x – 4-8-2
Borkowski and Josh Panerella; Justin Olson and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Olson (2-2); LP: Borkowski; 2B: Justin Olson (A), Will Thramann (A); Brayden Cooney (S), Brandon Kohl (S)
2017 Connecticut American Legion state tournament
Saturday, July 15
Stamford 7, Oxford 3
Middletown 5, Norwalk 0
East Haven 3, Guilford 2
North Haven 2, Bethel 0
Niantic 2, Windsor Locks 1
New Britain 3, New London 1
Winsted 2, Enfield 0
Bristol 3, Berlin 2
Sunday, July 16
South Windsor 14, New Britain 0
Southington 5, Bristol 0
Waterford 6, Winsted 1
Stamford 11, Orange 3
Middletown 9, Monroe 0
Trumbull 3, North Haven 0
Meriden 1, East Haven 0
West Hartford 2, Niantic 1
Tuesday, July 18
Best of 3 series, Game 1
Stamford 6, Oakville 0
Greenwich 8, Middletown 1
Cheshire 1, Meriden 0
Trumbull 3, Stratford 2
West Hartford 2, RCP 1
Avon 3, Southington 0
Willimantic 3, South Windsor 2
Wednesday, July 19
Stamford 5, Oakville 4, Stamford wins series, 2-0
Greenwich 2, Middletown 1, Greenwich wins series, 2-0
Cheshire 3, Meriden 0, Cheshire wins series, 2-0
Stratford 6, Trumbull 1
Trumbull 8, Statford 4, Trumbull wins series, 2-1
RCP 3, West Hartford 2
West Hartford 4, RCP 1, West Hartford wins series, 2-1
South Windsor 12, Willimantic 4
South Windsor 3, Willimantic 2
Southington 1, Avon 0, forfeit
Avon 4, Southington 3, Avon wins series, 2-1
Waterford 6, Tolland 1
Waterford vs. Tolland
Saturday, July 22
Northern Division finals
Four teams at Muzzy Field, Bristol
No. 3 Avon vs. No. 8 West Hartford
No 7 South Windsor vs. No. 5 Waterford or No. 4 Tolland
Saturday, July 22
Southern Division finals
Four teams at Palmer Field, Middletown
No. 9 Stamford vs. No. 2 Greenwich
No. 3 Cheshire vs. No. 5 Trumbull
Best of 3
Northern Division champion vs. Southern Division champion