The Avon American Legion baseball team hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself. A year ago, Post 201 won 18 of their first 22 games before heading to Fontana Field in Southington for a crucial doubleheader with Southington.
The opener was the completion of a game that was suspended earlier in the season due to darkness. The second game was a regularly scheduled contest. Southington won the opener in the 10th inning. In the nightcap, Southington pitcher Brett Susi scattered six hits in a 2-1 decision.
That sweep helped propel Southington to its first Zone 1 championship since 1998. Avon stumbled a bit dropping two straight games before getting on a roll in the state tournament with five straight victories.
On Friday night, Avon (15-2) will face Southington (16-3) at Avon Old Farms with another crucial doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. The opener will be the completion of a game suspended by darkness tied at 2-2 in the 10th inning, followed by a regularly scheduled contest.
And Avon faces Southington again on Sunday at Fontana Field in Southington at 7 p.m.
Bristol is third in Zone 1 with a 14-7 record so Avon’s three games with Southington could decide the Zone 1 championship.
Avon American Legion baseball coach Brian Doyle hasn’t shied away from Post 201’s quest to win its first-ever Zone 1 championship. “I put that goal right out there for them at the beginning of the season,” he said. “I think it is in the back of the kid’s minds. They’re competitive and they love to play. And now that we’re here (with an opportunity).”
Aside from the three games with Southington, Avon has a pair of games with Unionville (11-8) on Thursday and on Monday night. Post 201 will close out the regular season with games on the road against Simsbury (13-7) on Tuesday, July 16 and Wednesday, July 17.
“We want to compete for the zone championship but at the end of the day, it’s probably more important to do well in the state tournament,” Doyle said. “And we have to be playing good baseball to do that.”
The single-elimination round of the state tournament begins at the end of next week on Saturday, July 20. The top five teams from each zone qualify and the higher you finish in the zone, the fewer games you need to win to reach the eight-team, double-elimination potion of the tournament that begins Saturday, July 27.
Twenty teams from Zone 1, 6, 7 and 8 will play in the Northern Sectional with four teams advancing to the double elimination portion of the tournament. Teams from Zone 2, 3, 4 and 5 will compete in the Southern Sectional in Stamford. The final two teams in the tournament will play a best-of-3 series to determine the state champion.
Avon has been playing well. They’ve received solid pitching from Mike Castellani (5-0, 3 saves, 2.52 ERA), the ace from Avon Old Farms, Connor Dunn (3-0, 1 save, 0.76 ERA), who excelled at Northwest Catholic in the spring and Mac Crispino (2-1, 1.67 ERA), the Northwest Catholic hurler who will pitch for Fairfield University next spring.
Shortstop Noah Hahn (2-0) and center fielder Liam O’Connor (0-0, 1.31 ERA) are also stepping in and pitching well.
Castellani has struck out 53 hitters in 33 innings while Crispino has fanned 20 in 21 innings. Dunn had 19 strikeouts in 27 innings. Castellani struck out 10 and had a seven inning no-hitter against Wolcott while Dunn had a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 win over Unionville with four strikeouts. Dunn and Zach Davis combined on a five inning no-hitter against Wolcott in June. The games are called after five innings if one team had a 10-run lead.
“We have a well-rounded team,” Doyle said.
At the plate, Dunn is leading the team with a .524 average with 11 hits and five RBI. O’Connor, who had a splendid spring at Brandeis, has a team-high 23 hits, 12 RBI and is hitting .426. Nick Sanderson is hitting .358 with 19 hits and 12 RBI while catcher Cody Doyle is hitting .357 with 20 hits and nine RBI.
“We’ve been swinging the bats pretty well,” Brian Doyle said.
On Monday night, Avon rapped out six unanswered runs to beat Terryville, 10-4 and win its 15th game. Post 201 beat Terryville, 10-0 on July 2 and beat Torrington on June 30 by a 10-0 score.
And Avon has shown the ability to rally. They scored one run each in the sixth and seventh innings to beat Torrington, 2-1 in late June. Against Simsbury on June 28, Avon scored one run in the sixth to tie the game and won it in the eighth inning, 4-3.
Avon will be playing in the state tournament for the fifth straight season.
Zone 1 standings
As of Tuesday, July 9
Avon 15-2, Southington 16-3, Bristol 14-7, Simsbury 13-7, Unionville 11-8, Torrington 8-11, Terryville 7-13, Wolcott 4-16, Winsted 1-22
Avon’s remaining schedule
Wednesday, July 10: SOUTHINGTON (2), ppd., rain
Thursday, July 11: UNIONVILLE, 5:45 p.m.
Friday, July 12: SOUTHINGTON (2), 5 p.m.
Sunday, July 14: at Southington, 7 p.m.
Monday, July 15: UNIONVILLE, 5:45 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16: At Simsbury, 5:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 17: At Terryville, 5:30 p.m.