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With small, talented roster, Avon Legion hopes to contend in Zone 1 – The Collinsville Press
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With small, talented roster, Avon Legion hopes to contend in Zone 1

10 AvLegion gearAVON – Each year, Avon’s American Legion baseball team tries to do better than they did the previous summer. However, Post 201 keeps raising the bar.

In 2010, Avon finished second in Zone 1 and finished with 21 victories.

In 2011, Post 201 fell one win shy of winning its first-ever Zone 1 championship. Avon won nine of its final 11 Zone 1 contests and beat Monroe, 12-2 in eight innings to earn a bid into the final 16 of the state tournament for the first time.

A year ago, Avon was a contender for the Zone 1 championship after starting the season 15-3. But that evaporated with a late-season swoon. But Post 201 won five state tournament games, earned a bid into the final 16 of the state tournament and came within two victories of playing for the state championship.

They finished the season with a team-record 24 victories.

“Each year, we try to do better than we did the year before,” Avon Legion coach Brian Doyle said. “It’s a lofty goal but it is something we can do.”

Avon has only 13 players on its roster but they return some talented baseball players.

Post 201 has some experienced players on the mound. Left-handed Mike Castellani, who just graduated from Avon Old Farms, returns and has continued to improve. He went 5-0 with Old Farms this spring, the top pitcher on his team and helped the Winged Beavers win a share of their conference championship.

Last summer, he was the best pure pitcher on the Avon Legion team in the state tournament where he pitched 10 innings over three games, earning two wins and a save.

In his first outing of the season with Post 201, he threw a no-hitter in a 6-0 win against Wolcott, fanning 10 in the process in a complete game (7 innings) effort. “He has a nice, loose delivery and throws anywhere from 85 to 90 miles per hour and he’s a lefty,” Doyle said.

Pitcher Noah Hahn, who had a strong spring season at Avon High, returns along with high school teammate Will DiStefano, a pitcher and infielder. Hahn pitched 11 innings in five state tournament games a year ago and had a earned run average of 0.82. In one game against Rocky Hill/Cromwell/Portland, he came on in relief and retired 18 batters in a row.

Mack Crispino, a pitcher, third baseman and outfielder from Northwest Catholic, joins the team. He played for Unionville a year ago but his family moved to Avon this year. Dylan Marquis (Avon High) and Connor Dunn (NW Catholic) can also pitch.

Dunn joins the team after playing AAU baseball a year ago.

Doyle’s son, Cody (Avon Old Farms), will anchor the defense from behind the plate. When he isn’t pitching, Hahn will play shortstop with Dunn at second base. DiStefano will play first base and Nick Sanderson (Avon High) should see plenty of time at third base.

In the outfield, Avon will have Liam O’Connor in centerfield. O’Connor had a tremendous freshman season at Brandeis, hitting .321 in 36 games with 44 hits and 18 RBI and getting named rookie of the year in the University Athletic Association. He had six doubles and a triple, hitting safely in 10 of the final 11 games of the season.

Ben Suski (Avon High) and Matt Williamson (AOF) will be in the outfield.

With a small team, expect players to be moving around where they are needed. With just four bench players, Post 201 will need to stay away from injuries.

“If our best players can perform to their ability, we could have a special season,” Brian Doyle said. “When everyone shows up, we could be a tough team.”

Once again, Bristol will be a team to be reckoned with in Zone 1 along with defending Zone 1 champion Southington. There are few easy games. Terryville went to the Class S finals and Simsbury and Torrington always field solid teams.

Playing with wood bats can be an adjustment for players who have been playing most of their careers with aluminum bats.

Avon hopes to pick up where they left off in July. In four of their five straight tournament victories last year, Avon had to rally from a deficit. Post 201 erased a three-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning to tie Middletown and eventually won in the 12th inning. Avon erased a four-run deficit to beat Oakville and trailed Montville and Orange by one run before winning.

OF NOTE: Burlington dropped out of Zone 1 earlier this month when they couldn’t get enough players to field a team. … This is Avon’s fifth season since restarting the team in 2009. In the last four years, Avon has combined to win 87 games. In Avon’s seven previous seasons with a Legion program (1993, 94 and 1997 to 2000), the team combined to win 35 games.  … Only the top 5 teams in Zone 1, regardless of record, earn spots in the state tournament. … Twenty teams from Zones 1, 6, 7 and 8 will play in the Northern Sectional in tournament in a single-elimination format. The final four teams from the Northern Section will play a double elimination tournament. The champion from the Northern Sectional and Southern Section, held in Stamford, will play a best-of-3 for the state championship. … The Northeast Regional will be held at Palmer Field in Middletown this year.

Zone 1 standings

AVON 2013 schedule
Home games at Avon Old Farms. Games begin at 5:45 p.m. unless otherwise noted
11: UNIONVILLE, 12: at Simsbury, 5:30 p.m.; 13: at Terryville; 16: at Wolcott (2), 11 a.m.; 18: SOUTHINGTON; 19: at Bristol (Muzzy Field); 21: TORRINGTON; 23: BRISTOL (2), 1 p.m.; 25: at Winsted (Walker Field); 26: at Unionville (Tunxis Meade), 7; 28: SIMSBURY; 30: at Torrington (2), 11 a.m. (Fuessenich Park)
2: TERRYVILLE; 3: at Southington, 5:30 p.m.; 7: WINSTED (2), 1 p.m.; 10: SOUTHINGTON; 11: UNIONVILLE; 16: at Simsbury. 5:30 p.m.; 17: at Terryville; 20: State tournament sectional play begins; 27: State tournament final 16 begins

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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