AVON, July 1 – With a pair of hard-fought and thrilling victories over SImsbury, the Avon American Legion baseball moved closer to clinching their ninth straight bid to the state tournament on Saturday at Buckingham Field.
Meanwhile, the pressure continues to grow on Simsbury (8-9) if they want to return to the post-season. Only the top four teams in Zone 1 earn an invitation to the state tournament and Post 84 is three games behind fourth place Winsted (11-6) with seven games left in the season.
Avon (14-2) beat Simsbury in the opener with a 4-2 decision thanks to some timely hitting and four crucial walks in the fourth inning. In the second game, Avon prevailed thanks to a two-out single from Sean Del Gallo to right field to win the contest, 1-0 in nine innings.
Post 201 swept the three-game season series from Simsbury for just the second time ever and for the first time since 2010. Avon needs to win two of their final eight games to clinch a playoff berth and win six games to capture their second straight Zone 1 title.
Avon has a three-game lead on Southington (12-4) for the Zone 1 championship. The two teams could finish tied for first place but Avon would win the zone because Post 201 has already won two of the three games between the two teams this year.
Avon didn’t get many hits on Saturday against Simsbury – five in two games — but they got enough.
Simsbury took a 1-0 lead on Jake Nichols’ two-RBI double that scored Peter Myers. But Avon responded with four runs in the bottom of the third inning.
Del Gallo singled to center field, Justin Olson walked and Jeremy Zarwanski reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Consecutive walks to Will Thramann and Adam Theriault from Nichols gave Avon a 2-1 lead. After striking out Kyle Zarwanski, Ryan Ollestad drew a RBI walk to push the lead to 3-1. A fourth run scored on Brady Williamson’s infield ground ball.
Avon pitcher Chris Jacobs improved to 4-0 on the season, going the distance, scattering three hits, striking out one and walking three. Nichols and Simsbury reliever Peter Phillips combined to allow just two hits but they walked eight including four in the pivotal third inning.
In the nightcap, three Simsbury pitchers – Myers, Eberly and Luke Benneche – combined to strike out 13 Avon batters. For Avon, Olson and Coppen combined to strike out 11 batters. Myers gave up two hits and struck out nine over six innings. Olson gave up two hits and struck out 10 over eight innings.
There were few opportunities to score. Simsbury catcher Jon Wilson threw out Olson trying to steal third base to end the first inning. In the second inning, Avon had runners on first and second base thanks to a pair of walks but Myers struck out Joe Suski to end the threat in the second inning.
Simsbury nearly took the lead in the ninth inning. Still tied at 0-0, Nichols singled to left field with one out. He moved to third base on Sam Beadle’s two-out single to right field. The inning ended when Nichols tried to steal home but was tagged out by Jeremy Zarwanski.
Avon won the game in the ninth inning. Coppen was hit by a pitch from reliever Luke Benneche and moved to second base on a one-out walk to Brady Williamson. After a strikeout, Del Gallo won the game with a two-out single to right field.
It ended another scoreless marathon game with Avon. On Tuesday, Bristol beat Post 201 with a 1-0 win in 11 innings. On Thursday night, Avon and Winsted played nine innings of scoreless baseball before the game was suspended by darkness. They’ll finish it on Friday in Avon.
Avon returns to the diamond on Monday when they host Southington at 5:30 p.m. at Buckingham Field.
Avon 4, Simsbury 2
Simsbury (8-8) 001 100 0 – 2-3-0
Avon (13-2) 004 000 x – 4-2-2
Jake Nichols, Peter Phillips (4) and Jonathan Wilson; Chris Jacobs and Ryan Ollestad; WP: Jacobs (4-0); LP: Phillips (1-2); 2B: Jake Nichols (S); 3B: none; HR: none
Avon 1, Simsbury 0 (9)
Simsbury (8-9) 000 000 000 — 0-4-1
Avon (14-2) 000 000 001 — 1-3-0
Peter Myers, Nate Eberly (7), Luke Benneche (9) and Jonathan Wilson; Justin Olson, Jake Coppen (9) and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Coppen (2-0); LP: Benneche (2-1); 2B: none; 3B: none; HR: none
Zone 1 standings (As of July 2)