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Canton contributions help Simsbury win back-to-back Zone 1 titles

Five of the six Canton players on the Zone 1 champion Simsbury American Legion baseball team. From left, Peter Myers, Kevin Gurry, Jack Nedorostek, Jake Wood and Brendan Reilly.

Five of the six Canton players on the Zone 1 champion Simsbury American Legion baseball team. From left, Peter Myers, Kevin Gurry, Jack Nedorostek, Jake Wood and Brendan Reilly.

For the first time in its history, the Simsbury American Legion baseball program has captured Zone 1 championships in consecutive years. Is it a coincidence that over a third of the team is from Canton for the second straight year?

Pitcher Chris Enns

Pitcher Chris Enns

Perhaps. A year ago, Simsbury had seven players from Canton on its Zone 1 championship squad that qualified to play in the Northern Division final of the state tournament with four other teams. Simsbury was among the final eight in the state left standing.

This year, six of those seven Canton players have helped Simsbury win a Zone 1 championship with a sparkling 21-3 record. Team Canton and their Simsbury teammates face Bristol in a best-of-3 series on Wednesday and Thursday at Memorial Field in Simsbury. The winner advances to the four-team Northern Division final.

Like a year ago, Simsbury manager Thomas E. Vincent isn’t really sure which the town the players are from. Well, that is what he says. On the field, they all wear the blue, green and gold of Simsbury American Legion baseball. “They all give 100 percent effort which is why we’ve been so successful this season,” Vincent said.

The American Legion territory assigned to Simsbury includes Simsbury, Canton, Granby and East Granby – as it has for years. In past years, there were a handful of Canton players that made the Post 84 roster. Some played while others made spot contributions.

This year, Team Canton has made numerous contributions. But that has been the strength of this team all summer. Someone always steps up to contribute – get the big hit, make an outstanding defensive play or shut down the opponent from the mound.

“We’ve been getting great pitching all year,” Vincent said. “We have a lot of guys who would be No. 1 pitchers on other teams. They see one guy pitch a great game and they want to duplicate it. They want to one-up the next guy. It’s the kind of mentality we’ve had all year.”

This year’s players from Canton who returned to the team include:

  • Chris Enns, a left-handed pitcher/first baseman, who attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst this spring and hopes to walk on to the Division I program next year.
  • Relief pitcher Kevin Gurry, a Canton High graduate, who attends school in Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Pitcher Peter Myers, a 6-foot-1 lefthander, just completed his sophomore year at the Master’s School in Simsbury.
  • Infielder Jack Nedorostk, who played at Avon Old Farms this past spring and hopes to walk on and play at Holy Cross in Worcester next spring.
  • Infielder Brendan Reilly, a Canton High graduate, who attends Keene State. He didn’t play baseball this spring.
  • First baseman/catcher Jake Wood, who just completed his freshman year at Towson State where he participates in intramural sports.

The six Canton players have made numerous contributions all summer long.

Jake Wood plays first base, catches and DH for Simsbury.

Enns leads the staff with a 5-0 record while Myers is 4-0. Gurry generally pitches out of the bullpen but has a save and a complete game victory over Winsted. Against Post 43, Gurry scattered five hits and fanned four.

Myers has struck out 10 batters in two games – a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Avon in late June and a 4-2 win over Bristol on June 29. Enns had four strikeouts and allowed just four hits in five innings of work to beat Avon,5-3 and clinch the Zone 1 title on July 12. Enns had 10 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in six innings of work in a 9-1 win over Wolcott.

Nedorostek has played most of the season at third base. He was 2-for-3 with two RBI in the 8-0 win over Winsted last week. Reilly is an outfielder, primarily in left field. He a triple and three RBI in eight-run win over Wolcott in July.

Wood provides Vincent with versatility. He can catch, play first base or simply be the designated hitter. He has had some big hitting games this season. He was 3-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI in a 15-1 win over Terryville on July 9. He had a single, double and two RBI in a 6-2 win over Torrington.

“I love it,” Enns said after Post 84 clinched the Zone 1 championship. “All of the guys are great. I’ve known most of the (Canton) guys for a long time and we have real good chemistry.”

The chemistry among the entire team is good. The boys are from different towns but when they are on the bench and on the field, it is just one team – Post 84.

Simsbury (21-3) faces Bristol in a best-of-3 series Wednesday with the winner advancing to the four-team, double-elimination Northern Regional finals. Game 1 is Wednesday at 3 p.m. Game two is Thursday at 1 p.m. and if necessary, game three is at 4 p.m. on Thursday. The Northern finals begin Saturday in South Windsor.

The Northern and Southern Regional champions play a best-of-3 series in Middletown for the state championship.

Post 84 captured two of the three games between the squads this summer, winning 7-1 on June 19 behind a strong performance from Myers and again on June 29 with a 4-2 win. Myers picked up in the win in that game, too. Bristol shutout Simsbury in the first game of a doubleheader on June 29, 4-0.

Bristol beat Glastonbury, 3-1 and Wolcott, 5-0 to earn its date with Simsbury.

The Northeast Regional is at Muzzy Field this year on August 5-9 so Bristol will be playing in that tournament as the host team – no matter what happens in the state tournament.

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.

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