AVON, July 22 – It’s a whole new ball game once you arrive in the Connecticut American Legion baseball tournament. Visiting Tri-County Post 190 finished third in a competitive Zone 7 but they didn’t finish strong, losing six of their final eight games.
But that’s old news. Post 190 is undefeated after two games in Group A of the state tournament after beating Avon, 4-3 on Sunday at Buckingham Field. The victory puts Tri-County (15-8) into the Group A championship game on Wednesday.
Avon (17-3) will face either Windsor (9-13) or Willimantic (20-8) on Tuesday at Buckingham to see who will face Tri-County on Wednesday. Windsor was leading 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning when the game was suspended by rain Sunday.
Avon, Willimantic or Windsor will have to beat Tri-Country twice to win Group A and earn a spot in the four-team Northern Division finals at Muzzy Field in Bristol.
Tri-County pitcher Sean Casey had a rough first inning, giving up two runs and two hits. The Post 190 coaching staff was considering lifting the 6-foot-4 righthander from RHAM High School but they stayed with him.
“He actually found himself in the second inning and was throwing the ball better and was spotting his changeup better,” Tri-County manager Len Lampugnale said. “We decided to ride it out.”
Casey gave up just two hits in the next four innings and struck out three. Avon stranded six baserunners against Casey.
Tri-County, which is made up of players from Lebanon, Andover, Marlborough and Hebron, took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning sparked by a RBI triple from Jack Johnson and a two-RBI single from Brennan McMahon, the No. 9 hitter in the lineup.
Tri-County added an insurance run in the seventh inning on a deep sacrifice fly from Joe Pishka with the bases loaded to take a 4-2 lead.
“We hit a bad stretch (in the final weeks of the season),” Lampugnale said. “But we told the kids everything starts over (in the state tournament). Let’s just go play games. We just got hits at the right time.”
Tri-County had 10 hits in the game, led by Wyatt Sihvonen, who was 3-for-4. Johnson was 2-for-3 with a triple and one RBI while Ryan Skaff was 2-for-3.
Avon, which won their third straight Zone 1 championship earlier this month, tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Jake Coppen led off the inning by reaching first base on an error. He moved to second base when Dylan Nastri walked. Coppen moved to third base when Jeremy Zarwanski reached on a fielder’s choice putting runners on first and third base with one out.
Chris Jacob’s sacrifice fly to right field drove in Coppen from third base to cut the lead to one run, 4-3. But Tri-County reliever Wyatt Sihvonen struck out Will Boone to end the game.
“No one said this would be easy,” Avon manager Stephen Harris said. “No one said that teams would show up and lay down for us. Tri-County had a big win (on Saturday) and our boys did a great job getting the field ready (to play).”
Due to rain earlier on the day Saturday, the game was delayed for a little more than an hour as the Avon players and coaches helped get the field playable.
“But at the end of the day, we got outplayed,” Harris said. “They executed and they earned it. We didn’t get things done that we needed to get done. Tip your hat to them (Tri-County).”
After the game, he discussed additional focus at the plate with his players. “I would like to see them get more locked in with their at-bats,” he said. “You’re not finishing or you’re not pushing when you swing at bad pitches in bad counts. They’re good ballplayers. You have to know the situation and swing at the appropriate pitch.”
Avon took a 2-0 lead with a strong first inning. Justin Olson led off the game with a single and moved to second base when Coppen walked. Nystri reached on an error and the bases were loaded with no outs.
After Casey got Zarwanski to pop out to second base, Jacobs grounded into a fielder’s choice but Olson scored from third base for a 1-0 lead. Boone followed with a RBI double to give Avon a 2-0 lead.
However, Avon had just two hits the remainder of the day.
Olson (3-1) got the start on the mound for Avon and went four innings, allowing six hits and fanning six. He walked just two. Nastri pitched an inning of relief in the fifth inning while Jacobs pitched the final two innings, giving up a run and three hits.
Post 190 played without first baseman Ryan Ollestad, who was 3-for-3 with a double and two RBI in Saturday’s win over Windsor. He was at Boston College for fall orientation. He will be back for Tuesday’s tournament game.
Tri-County 4, Avon 3
Tri-County (15-8) 000 300 1 — 4-10-3
Avon (17-3) 200 000 1 — 3-4-2
Sean Casey, Wyatt Sihvonen (6) and Jack Turco; Justin Olson, Dylan Nastri (5), Chris Jacobs (6) and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Casey; LP: Olson (3-1); Save: Sihvonen; 2B: Will Boone (A); 3B: Jack Johnson (TC)
Saturday, July 21
Game 1: Avon 5, Windsor 3
Game 2: Tri-Country 2, Willimantic 0
Sunday, July 22
Game 3: Windsor (9-13, Zone 8) vs. Willimantic (20-8, Zone 6). Game suspended in sixth inning with Windsor leading, 3-0
Game 4: Tri-Country 4, Avon 3
Monday, July 23
Windsor at Willimantic
Tuesday, July 24
Game 5: Windsor or Willimantic at Avon (17-3, Zone 1), loser eliminated
Wednesday, July 25
Game 6: Tri-County (15-8, Zone 7) vs. winner game 5
Game 7: Tri-County (15-8, Zone 7) vs. winner game 5, If necessary
Winner advances to 4-team Northern Division regional in Bristol