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Stellar defense and pitching lifts Avon Legion past Southington in playoff opener

Avon’s Will Thramann gets a face full of dirt but he safely gets back to first base in Tuesday night’s state tournament game in Avon. Post 201 prevailed, 3-0.

AVON, July 18 – The Avon American Legion baseball team got the job done on Tuesday night against Zone 1 rival Southington in game one of the best-of-3 Northern Division series at Buckingham Park in the state tournament.

Post 201 only had four hits against Southington but made them count with a pair of clutch hits in the bottom of the sixth inning to allow a tight one-run lead swell to three runs. Avon played some outstanding defense and pitcher Connor Harris scattered five hits and struck out seven as Avon beat Southington, 3-0.

The victory gives Avon a 1-0 lead in the series. The two teams play on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Buckingham and, if necessary, they will play game 3 at 5:30 p.m. The winner of the series advances to the four-team Northern Division finals beginning Saturday at Muzzy Field in Bristol.

“The defense was great, top-notch,” Avon coach Donny Annicelle said. “The pitching was phenominal. The hitting could have been a little better but we got the hits when we needed them.”

Avon had a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth inning when Will Thramann hit a sharp ground ball to shortstop and beat it out for a leadoff single off Robarge. It was just the fourth hit he had allowed in the game.

Robarge threw four straight throws to first base trying to pick off Thramann before Robarge threw a single pitch to Justin Olson at the plate. Robarge’s first pitch to Olson was high. His second pitch was in the dirt and Thramann scampered to second base.

Justin Olson smiles as he signals the Avon bench after his RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning of Tuesday’s state tournament win over Southington.

Olson took Robarge’s next pitch and ripped it to right field for an RBI double and a 2-0 lead. Olson went to third base on a throw home. Olson scored on Jeremy Zarwanski’s sacrifice fly to right field for a 3-0 lead.

Southington (19-7) threatened in the top of the seventh. Harris gave up two hits and had runners on first and second base with two outs. But he struck out Mason Dibble to end the game.

“I’m not nervous when (Harris) is pitching,” Annicelle said. “He’s always around the plate and keeps his pitch count down.”

It was the first game in nearly a week for Avon. As Zone 1 champion, they had the weekend off while 16 other teams from around the state played two elimination games to reach the best-of-3 divisional series.

“I missed the diamond,” Harris said. “It was good to be out there.”

“They hit the ball hard,” Annicelle said. “We were lucky we had guys in the right spot. There were a lot of nice catches out there.”

Avon pitcher Connor Harris pitched a complete game and improved to 8-0 after Tuesday night’s state playoff win over Southington.

With one runner on and Post 201 up just a run, Avon center fielder Joe Suski made a nice grab on the run in the fifth inning on a deep fly ball off the bat of Daniel Topper to end the inning. In the top of the second inning, Southington had two runners on but Harris coaxed Justin Makles to fly out to left field to end the inning.

In the top of the third inning, Dibble led off with a single. But he was erased when Topper tried to lay down a bunt and it went right to Harris for a double play. The inning ended when first baseman Sean Del Gallo made a tremendous catch in foul territory near the fence along the first base line.

Avon took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Brady Williamson walked and moved to second base on Suski’s successful sacrifice fly. Del Gallo and Thramann were each hit by pitches to load the bases. Olson ripped a hard-hit ball to Makles a second base. Makles throw out Olson at first base but Williamson scored from third base to give Post 201 the lead.

NOTES: It was Avon’s third win in four games with Post 72 this year. Avon swept the best-of-3 series with Berlin a year ago to get to the Northern Division finals. … The win was Avon’s eighth shutout of the season. … Southington will be the home team in game 2 of the series while Avon will get home field, if needed, for game three.

Avon 3, Southington 0
At Avon
Southington (19-7)                        000  000  0 – 0-5-0
Avon (20-5)                                   001  002  x – 3-4-1
Bailey Robarge, Justin Virelli and Josh Panerella; Connor Harris and Ryan Ollestad; WP: Harris (8-0); LP: Robarge; 2B: Justin Olson (A), Brayden Cooney (S); 3B: none; HR: none

2017 Connecticut American Legion state tournament
Saturday, July 15
Single elimination
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
Single elimination
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
Southern Regional
Stamford 6, Oakville 0
Greenwich 8, Middletown 1
Cheshire 1, Meriden 0
Trumbull 3, Stratford 2
Northern Regional
West Hartford 2, RCP 1
Avon 3, Southington 0
South Windsor vs. Willimantic

Wednesday, July 19
Best-of-3 series
Southern Regional
No. 9 Stamford at No. 1 Oakville
No. 10 Middletown at No. 2 Greenwich
No. 6 Meriden at No. 3 Cheshire
No. 5 Trumbull at No. 4 Stratford
Northern Regional
No. 8 West Hartford at No. 1 RCP
No. 7 South Windsor at No. 2 Willimantic
No. 6 Southington at No. 3 Avon, 3:30 p.m.
No. 5 Waterford at No. 4 Tolland (2), 3 p.m.

Saturday, July 22
Northern Division finals
Four teams at Muzzy Field, Bristol

Saturday, July 22
Southern Division finals
Four teams at Palmer Field, Middletown

State championship
Best of 3
Northern Division champion vs. Southern Division champion

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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