AVON – After beating defending Zone 1 champion Southington with two outs in the 12th inning in one game and erasing a three-run deficit and beating Post 72 with a two-out single in a second game, the Avon American Legion baseball team is standing on the precipice of its first-ever championship.
Avon (18-2) needs to win just one of its final four regular season games to win the Zone 1 championship.
Liam O’Connor’s two-out single in the bottom of the 12th inning helped Avon top Southington, 3-2 in a game that was the conclusion of a contest suspended after 10 innings due to darkness on July 3.
In the second contest, Southington grabbed a three-run lead but Avon cut the lead to one on a two-RBI double from Cody Doyle in the fifth and won it, 4-3, with two runs in the seventh inning. Connor Dunn’s two-out single down the third base line won the game for Post 201.
Avon plays at Southington (17-5) on Sunday night at Fontana Field, hosts Unionville on Monday night at Avon Old Farms and finishes the season with road games at Simsbury on Tuesday and Terryville on Wednesday.
Southington also has a game left with Wolcott on Wednesday but they knew that the league championship was on the line Friday night at Avon Old Farms.
“It would be cool (to win the zone title),” Doyle said. “We’re a small town and it would mean a lot. But our ultimate goal is to win in the state tournament.”
Pitcher Michael Castellani pitched five innings last night – two innings in the first game and three innings in the nightcap. He struck out four and scattered four hits.
“These were statement wins by our team,” he said. “We showed we can play with any team in the state.”
Avon showed poise and confidence to win the two games. In the suspended game, Southington took a 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh inning back on July 3. But Avon rallied in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game.
Will DeStefano coaxed a one-out walk from Post 72 starter Joe Rivera, who had struck out eight and allowed just two hits. Ben Lombard followed with a double to centerfield, moving DeStefano to third base.
After getting a strikeout, Castellani ripped a two-RBI double to center field to tie the game at 2-2. The two teams completed 10 innings before the game was called due to darkness.
Last night, Castellani headed back to the mound for the 11th inning. He had pitched three innings of relief on July 3. “It was different. I had to be perfect. I couldn’t give up any runs,” he said. Castellani gave up just one hit and struck out one.
In the 12th, Dunn singled with one out and stole second base. Castellani flew out for the second out of the inning but Dunn scored on a RBI single from O’Connor down the third base line for the 3-2 victory.
In the second game, Southington took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a one-out single from Brett Susi and a two-out single from Brett Shaw. Post 72 extended its lead to 3-0 in the fifth with a pair of unearned runs.
A pair of one-out walks to Avon’s Noah Hahn and Mac Crispino provided Doyle with an opportunity to rip a two-RBI double into left field to cut the Southington lead to 3-2.
In the bottom of the seventh, Doyle reached on an error with one out when the throw by third baseman Matt Sirois to first base was too high. Avon’s Nick Sanderson coaxed a walk from reliever Craig Frobel.
Avon’s Ben Lombard grounded up the middle but Southington shortstop Ted Shaw couldn’t handle the ball as it bounced over the second base bag. Lombard reached on an error and Doyle scooted home to tie the game, 3-3.
After a strikeout for the second out, Dunn ripped a single down the third base line for the game-winning hit. Not bad for a pitcher that never hit at Northwest Catholic in West Hartford and doesn’t get many opportunities to hit with Post 201.
“It has been different guys who step up (in each game),” Avon Legion coach Brian Doyle said. “There is Mike Castellani and Connor Dunn. The kids are competitive and they play (baseball) all the time.”
Dunn had a five-hit performance against Simsbury earlier this season. And with just 13 players on Avon’s roster, everyone needs to contribute.
Crispino pitched three innings of relief in game two to earn the win for Avon, scattering four hits and striking out three.
NOTES: Hahn was excellent on Thursday night as he pitched a complete game no-hitter in a 6-0 win over Unionville. It was the fourth no-hitter of the season for Post 201 … 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 3, Southington 2 (12)
Southington 000 000 200 000 – 2-10-0
Avon 000 000 200 001 – 3-8-0
Joe Rivera, Andrew Goralski (8), Matt DiNello (9), Brett Susi (10), Rivera (11) and David Palladino; Mac Crispino, Mike Castellani (7), Connor Dunn (10), Castellani (11) and Cody Doyle; WP: Castellani; LP: Rivera; 2B: Edward Shaw (S), Joe Rivera (S). Completion of game from July 3, suspended in 10th inning due to darkness
Avon 4, Southington 3
Southington (17-5) 001 020 0 – 3-7-2
Avon (18-2) 000 020 2 – 4-6-2
Joe Rivera, Craig Frobel (4) and David Palladino; Matt Castellani, Liam O’Connor (4), Mac Crispino (5) and Cody Doyle; WP: Crispino; LP: Frobel; 2B: Cody Doyle (A)