MIDDLETOWN, July 24 – The opportunities were there. The Avon American Legion baseball team just couldn’t cash in.
Defending state champion Branford Post 83 (24-2) got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to eliminate Post 201 from the Connecticut state American Legion tournament with a 2-1 victory at Palmer Field Sunday afternoon.
With Branford leading by one run, Avon loaded the bases in the top of the seventh with no outs off starting pitcher Brian Levchuk. Andrew Livingstone singled to left centerfield, Cody Doyle was hit by a pitch and Brandon Moss reached on an error when Levchuk bobbled a bunt attempt.
Rightfielder Andrew Pellagrino relieved Levchuk and got Liam O’Connor to sharply ground to third baseman Alex Velardi, who threw home for the force out. Catcher Buddy Shea fired the ball back to first base to just get O’Connor and a huge double play. Avon’s Tyler D’Onofrio grounded out to second base to end the inning.
In the eighth inning, Pellagrino struck out the side despite struggling with a cramp in his right leg that left him hopping after some pitches. Two of three batters in the ninth struck out for Avon. Post 201 hurler Brendan Telfer was the tough luck loser. He gave up nine hits but he struck out eight and gave up just one earned run.
Avon took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. With one out, D’Onofrio reached on an error. He stole second base and scored on Connor Doyle’s RBI single to right field.
Branford tied the game in the third. Pellogrino led off with a single, moved to second on a single from Jesse Castaldi and scored on a two-out RBI single from Connor Moriarty. Post 83 made it 2-1 in the fifth on a one-out infield single from Shea.
Avon had chances to score. In the third, D’Onofrio singled with one out, stole second and moved to third base. But Connor Doyle hit into an inning-ending double play. In the fourth, Telfer doubled and moved to third on a ground ball out. But he was stranded there.
One of the more amusing plays was Avon successfully deploying the hidden ball trick. In the fifth, Shea’s RBI single gave Branford a 2-1 lead. Mike Forgione moved from second to third base. Branford’s Oliver Hart popped up to second baseman Connor Doyle for the first out. But Doyle never threw the ball back to the mound. And when Shea took a lead off first base, Doyle tagged him for the second out of the inning.
Branford 2, Avon 1
Avon (21-9) 100 000 000 – 1-5-2
Branford (24-2) 010 010 00x – 2-9-3
Brendan Telfer and Cody Doyle; Brian Levchuk, Anthony Pellagrino (7) and Oliver Hart (9) and Buddy Shea; 2B: Mike Forgione (B), Telfer (A); LOB: Branford 9, Avon 7; WP: Levchuk (6-0): LP: Telfer (5-2)