AVON, July 10 – After losing the longest game in team history on a throwing error in the 13th inning, three Avon American Legion pitchers combined to limit visiting Winsted to just two hits in a 3-0 victory Monday night to allow Post 201 to win their second consecutive Zone 1 baseball championship.
Avon (18-5) becomes just the fourth team in Zone 1 history to win back-to-back titles. Simsbury (2015) and Southington (1993) successfully defended their Zone 1 championships while Bristol, who has collected a zone-record 33 titles since 1959, has successfully defended their Zone 1 crown 24 times.
For Avon, it is their third Zone 1 championship in five years. It was nearly four pennants. In 2014, Simsbury and Avon actually tied for first place in the zone but Post 84 took home the championship by winning the season series between the two teams.
“When you have a group of talented kids like this, you need to get them into the right mindset, get them motivated and get them in the right spots to do what they know how to do,” said Avon manager Donny Annicelle.
Avon returned every player from last year’s Zone 1 championship team that went 2-2 in the state tournament before falling in the four-team Northern Division finals.
“That made my job a little easier,” Annicelle said. “Everyone knew their role from last year to this year and that helped. It’s been a good season.”
Avon went 9-1 in the first 10 games of the year, only dropping one game to Wolcott. Avon had a run of seven shutouts in a 10-game stretch in late June.
Post 201 has played numerous close games. They beat Bristol with a RBI single from Chris Jacobs in the bottom of the seventh, 4-3, in the second game of the year. Avon beat Simsbury, 1-0 in nine innings on July 1 on Sean Del Gallo’s RBI single.
“Pitching has been our strength,” Annicelle said. “We’re solid defensively and we have some kids who can hit the ball and hit it hard.”
Connor Harris and Chris Jacobs are 6-0 with Jake Coppen with a pair of wins. Justin Olson (1-2) and Kyle Emery (2-1) has pitched some tough games.
Avon gets to skip the single-elimination portion of the state tournament and will play a best-of-3 series against an unknown opponent beginning on Tuesday, July 18 at Buckingham Field. The winner of the series advances to one of two four-team regional finals. The regional champions play a best-of-3 series for the state championship.
“The first key was to win the zone,” Annicelle said. “Pitching is everything especially with the new pitch count rules. Setting up the pitching will be helpful and having home field (for the best-of-3 series) will be helpful, too.”
Winsted won the first game Monday night, 1-0, scoring on a two-out error in the bottom of the 13th inning. For Winsted, the victory snapped a 14-game losing streak against Avon dating back to 2012.
The two teams played nine scoreless innings at Winsted’s Walker Field on June 29 and were completing the game at Buckingham. Winsted, which earned a playoff berth, was led by pitcher Ryan Sholtis, who struck 12 Avon batters in seven innings of work.
Avon starting pitcher Kyle Emery didn’t give up a run in five innings of work but pitched out a jam. In the fourth inning, Emery walked three consecutive batters with two outs to load the bases. But Emery got Winsted’s Connor Toffey to line out to shortstop Chris Jacobs to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Emery gave up his fifth walk to the first Winsted hitter of the inning – Jayson Reola. But Annicelle brought in reliever Justin Olson, who struck out the side.
Winsted threatened in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mike Oley singled with one out to left field. On Toffey’s single to center field, Oley advanced to third base. But Olson got Cameron Wilheim to strike out and Tony Pacino grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.
Avon had a chance in the top of the seventh inning. Adam Theriault had a one-out double to left field and moved to third bases on a wild pitch. But Jacobs struck out and Ryan Ollestad was called out when catcher Chris Closson caught a foul tip to end the inning.
Avon loaded the bases in the top of the 12th inning on a single by Will Thramann, a walk to Adam Theriault and an error. But Avon catcher Ryan Ollestad grounded back to pitcher Lucas Gryniuk, who threw out Thramann at home for the second out. Brady Williamson flew out to center field to end the inning.
Wilheim doubled and Tony Pacino walked in the bottom of the 12th inning. But Olson was able to retire the next three batters in order.
Winsted finally broke through in the 13th inning. Vincent Tancreti reached first with a one-out single to left field and stole second base. Tancreti scored when Olson overthrew first base on an infield grounder off the bat of Jon King.
Avon won the Zone 1 title with a dominating 3-0 win over Winsted as Olson, Brady Williamson and Connor Harris combined to allow just two hits. Williamson had a RBI single in the fourth inning while Joe Suski had a RBI single in the sixth. Sean Del Gallo had a RBI double to make the game, 3-0.
On Tuesday, Avon (18-5) committed three errors and gave up five unearned runs in a 9-3 loss to Bristol at Buckingham Field. Anthony Lozier was 3-for-4 with two RBI for Bristol (16-7) while Michael Lemke was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Ollestad was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI for Avon. Jake Coppen pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up just four hits and one run. Williamson gave up five hits and eight runs but only three were earned.
Avon concludes the regular season by hosting Terryville at Buckingham Field on Wednesday at 5:45 p.m.
Winsted 1, Avon 0 (13)
Avon (17-4) 000 000 000 000 0 — 0-3-3
Winsted (14-7) 000 000 000 000 1 — 1-6-1
Kyle Emery, Justin Olson (6) and Ryan Ollestad; Ryan Sholtis, Jakob Skpur (8), Mike Oley (12), Lucas Gryniuk (12) and Chad Closson; WP: Gryniuk; LP: Olson (1-2); 2B: Adam Theriault (A), Tony Pacino (W), Cameron WIlheim (W). NOTE: First nine innings were played in Winsted on June 29. Game suspended due to darkness. Last five innings played in Avon.
Avon 3, Winsted 0
Winsted (14-8) 000 000 0 – 0-2-3
Avon (18-4) 000 102 x – 3-7-0
Vincent Tangreti, Lucas Gryniuk (5) and Chad Closson, Zach Austin (4); Justin Olson, Brady Williamson (4), Connor Harris (6) and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Harris (6-0); LP: Tangreti; 2B: Olson (A), Sean Del Gallo (A)
Bristol 9, Avon 3
Bristol (16-7) 000 108 0 — 9-8-3
Avon (18-5) 200 010 0 – 3-4-3
Kenneth Knox and Chadd Richardson; Jake Coppen, Brady Williamson (5), Joe Suski (7) and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Knox; LP: Williamson (1-2); 2B: Ryan Ollestad (A); Chadd Richardson (B)