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Avon rally falls short as Shelton Americans advance to Section II title game, 8-6

Players on the Avon Little League baseball team celebrate with teammate Connor Lavore, who hit a three-run home run in Friday night’s Section II game against the Shelton Americans. Avon was eliminated with an 8-6 loss.

NAUGATUCK, July 20 – In the first game of the Section II Little League regional, the Avon Major Division All-Star (ages 11-12) baseball team had just one hit against Wallingford in an eight-run defeat.

On Friday night, Avon rapped out 11 hits. Connor Lavore had a three-run home run in the third inning, a double and five RBI. But Avon couldn’t quite get the job done.

They stranded 11 runners on base and left the bases loaded twice as the Shelton Americans ended Avon’s season with an 8-6 victory Friday night at Peter J. Foley Field. Shelton American (5-2) advances to play Wallingford for the Section II title on Saturday morning while Avon completes their season at 7-3.

Shelton put pressure on Avon early but got just two runs across. In the first inning, Shelton Americans loaded the bases on three consecutive singles off starting pitcher Harrison Engle and took a 1-0 lead on a one-out RBI single from Joe Giliotti. But Engle was able to get the next two batters to fly out to Avon second baseman Drew Fitting and ground out to Fitting to get out of the jam.

In the second inning, Shelton took a 2-0 lead on a bases-loaded walk to Nicholas Piscioniere with one out. Again, Engle got one batter to pop out to Fitting and struck out a batter to end the rally.

Avon’s Luke Coppin is out at second base — which slid away as he slid into it — which Shelton American’s Connor Fahey tries to complete a double play.

Avon finally got the bats going in the third inning. All nine batters came to the plate. Luke Coppin and Colin Miley singled and scored on a Lavore’s three-run home in the top of the third inning to give Avon their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Avon had five consecutive hits in the third inning. After Lavore’s home run, Jacob Wirth and Chase Beloin singled. But Shelton American starting pitcher Nick Coppola got two big strikeouts. A single from Engle loaded the bases for Avon but Coppola got out of the jam with a ground ball out.

“It’s a game of inches,” Shelton American manager John Larkin said. “They put the ball (over the) sweet spot of the plate one too many times. These are All-Stars. You leave the ball in the middle of the plate, you can expect someone to deposit it somewhere. And that big kid (Lavore) deposited into the woods. Our kids realized then they were in a for a fight.”

Coppola gave up seven hits in three innings of work – including six in the third inning – and struck out seven.

Avon starting pitcher Harrison Engle got out of a pair of bases-loaded jams in the first and second innings and only gave up one run each inning.

Shelton Americans retook the lead in the fourth inning. With two men on base (walks), Shelton’s Nicholas Piscioniere singled to right field but when the ball got behind the outfielder, two runs scored and Piscioniere ended up a third base. Piscioniere (2-2, 2 RBI) scored on an infield groundout to give Shelton a 6-3 lead.

Shelton Americans added two more runs in the top of the fifth inning on bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice fly to take an 8-3 lead.

Avon rallied one last time in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, Lavore had a two-run double and Wirth added a RBI single to cut the lead to two runs, 8-6. After a ground ball out for the second out, Avon’s Jonah Weber coaxed a walk to load the bases.

But Shelton American pitcher Austin Leifer picked up his third strikeout of the game to end the rally and the ballgame.

Avon won the District 6 championship while the Shelton Americans won the District 3 crown. It was Avon’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2016 and the fifth state tournament bid in the last eight years.

Avon relief pitcher Luke Coppin tags out a Shelton runner in Friday night’s Section II game in Naugatuck.

Shelton gets another chance to beat Wallingford on a one-game playoff to see which team will advance to the four-team state championship series. Wallingford, which won the Section II title a year ago with a win over Canton, beat Shelton on Thursday night, 7-1. Wallingford beat Avon, 8-0 on Wednesday night.

Lavore had three hits for Avon while Coppin and Wirth were each 2-for-4. Miley, Stephen Weschick, Engle and Fitting each had singles for Avon. Gael Quirgo was the only other Shelton player with multiple hits. He was 2-for-3. There were seven errors in the game – four by Shelton Americans.

Shelton American 8, Avon 6
At Naugatuck
Avon (7-3)                                 003  003 – 6-11-3
Shelton American (5-2)         110  42x – 8-8-4
Harrison Engle, Luke Coppen (4), Connor Lavore (5) and Jacob Wirth; Nick Coppola, Austin Leifer (4) and Paden Larkins, Nicholas Piscioniere (4); WP: Piscioniere; LP: Engle; 2B: Connor Lavore (A); HR: Lavore (A)

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. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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