AVON, July 17 – When the season began, Avon American Legion coach Brian Doyle wasn’t sure if his team could earn a berth in the state tournament. They needed 15 wins to secure an invitation. “At that time, I thought that was a lofty goal,” he said.
But after Avon won 13 of its first 15 Zone 1 contests, expectations changed. Perhaps Post 201 could contend for a Zone 1 championship. Avon had swept three games from Bristol, a program they had beaten just once ever. On July 3, Avon topped Terryville to become one of the first teams in the state to clinch a tournament berth. They were 15-3 and in command of the Zone 1 race.
Since that point, Avon has played eight games and has won just three. On Tuesday, Post 201 was shutout for the second consecutive outing in a 3-0 Zone 1 loss to Simsbury. Last Friday, Avon fell to Unionville, 3-0. Avon (18-9, 18-8 Zone 1) has scored just three runs in its last three games.
Visiting Simsbury used three outstanding pitchers to limit Avon to just one hit. Post 72 improved to 16-10 with its eighth win in the last nine games.
“Our pitching as a whole has been outstanding in the second half of the season,” Simsbury coach Tom Vincent said. Mike Gibbons (Wheaton College) and Matt Quintana (Siena) pitched five innings of no-hit ball, striking out five Avon batters. Jason Byers, who will pitch at Marietta next spring, finished off the game with two innings.
“We probably faced three of the top three pitchers in the zone tonight,” Doyle said. “And with wood bats, that can be difficult.”
“When you’re winning, you’re not as good as you look and when you’re losing, you’re not as bad as you look,” Doyle said. “We’re just trying to salvage something and play better baseball.”
There isn’t a lot of time to rebound. Avon closes out the Zone 1 campaign by hosting Terryville (3-23) Wednesday night at Avon Old Farms. The play-in round of the state tournament begins on Friday or Saturday.
Simsbury took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Jake Cassano singled, stole second base and scored on Matt Quintana’s RBI double to left field. Simsbury made it 2-0 in the third when E.J. Lavoie walked, moved to second base on another walk, took third on a successful sacrifice bunt by Josh Hollihan and scored on a RBI ground out by Josh Gowdy,
Simsbury added an insurance run in the fifth when Hollihan reached on an error and scored on a RBI double from Gowdy.
Avon loaded the bases in the fifth inning without a hit. Noah Hahn walked and moved to second on a ground ball out. George Nurisso walked and each runner moved up on base on Ben Lombard’s sacrifice bunt. The bases were loaded when Nicholas Sanderson was hit by a pitch. But a strikeout ended the threat and the inning.
In the sixth, Avon had runners on first and second base thanks to a two-out single from Michael Castellani and a walk from Hahn. But another strikeout ended the inning.
“There were some good things out there today,” Doyle said. “We made some good plays in the field. We held an optional practice and 12 of the 15 kids were there. That tells me, they’re still interested in getting better. I don’t think they have given up.”
Avon will finish third in Zone 1 behind Southington (19-6) and Bristol (20-7). Simsbury and Unionville are tied for fourth at 16-10.
Rough finish for Legion team
On July 3, Avon was 15-3 in Zone 1 after a 5-2 win over Terryville. Since that time, Post 201 has found wins to be scarce.
July 5: vs. Southington, game suspended in ninth, tied 4-4
July 6: Avon 6, Wolcott 1
July 8: Winsted 2, Avon 1
July 8: Avon 9, Winsted 5
July 11: Avon 3, Burlington 1
July 12: Southington 6, Avon 4 (10)
July 12: Southington 2, Avon 1
July 13: Unionville 3, Avon 0
July 17: Simsbury 3, Avon 0
July 19: Avon 7, Terryville 0