AVON, July 21 – Avon American Legion first baseman Ryan Ollestad was quite familiar with Windsor left-handed pitcher Alex Rosario. In May, Rosario limited the Avon High baseball to just four hits in a shutout victory.
“He throws the ball hard, he’s a (left-handed pitcher) and he has a disgusting curve ball,” Ollestad said. “My approach was to look for a first-pitch fastball.”
Ollestad was 3-for-3 Saturday with a key two-RBI single in the fifth inning that gave Avon the lead for the first time as Post 201 rallied from a three-run deficit to earn a 5-3 victory in the American Legion state tournament opener for both teams at Buckingham Field.
Avon (17-2) will face Tri-County (14-8), a team out of Lebanon filled with primarily RHAM High players, on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Buckingham in Group A action. Tri-Country, which finished third in Zone 7, beat Willimantic on Saturday, 2-0.
Rosario shut down the Avon Post 201 for four innings, striking out six and allowing four hits – three of them with two outs in the inning. He was a dominant pitcher in the high school season, going 12-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 99 strikeouts to lead Windsor to the Class L championship game.
And Windsor, the only team in the 33-team American Legion state tournament with a losing record, took a 3-0 lead off Avon ace pitcher Connor Harris (8-1).
But Post 201 finally broke through in the fifth inning. Designated hitter Sam Smith led off the inning with a walk before Miles Borenstein singled up the middle. Avon shortstop Justin Olson fouled off several pitches before walking to load the bases with no outs.
Rosario struck out Jake Coppen but Dylan Nastri reached on an error, driving in Post 201’s first run. Nastri hit a ground ball to Windsor second baseman Erik Romero who bobbled the ball, looked to second base for a potential double play but turned to throw to first base and the throw was high.
It looked Rosario might get out of the jam by striking out Jeremy Zarwanski – his eighth strikeout of the game — for the second out of the inning.
But Rosario walked Chris Jacobs on a 3-2 pitch to drive in another run and cut the Windsor lead to 3-2. Then Ollestad delivered with a two-RBI double to center field to give Avon their first lead, 4-3.
Back-to-back walks to Adam Theriault and Smith helped extend Avon’s lead to two runs, 5-3.
“I am probably as proud of this win as any other win we’ve had this season,” Avon manager Stephen Harris said. “Because good teams don’t lay down. We were up for the challenge. If we want to go anywhere this summer (in the state tournament), we’re going to have to beat the best.”
Added Stephen Harris, “I loved the fact we didn’t give up and continued to score with two outs.”
Avon starter Connor Harris went 4 2/3 innings, giving up five hits and striking out six. He was lifted with two outs in the top of the fifth inning because he had reached 80 pitches. Now, he will be eligible to pitch on Wednesday for Post 201.
Reliever Will Boone came in and made one pitch to finish off Windsor in the fifth. He pitched another two innings of scoreless baseball, giving up two hits and striking out two.
Windsor took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a steal of home. With runners on first and third base with two outs, Windsor’s Erik Romero got caught in a rundown between first and second base while Matthew Lewczyk scampered home to score before Romero was tagged out.
In the fourth inning, Windsor made it 3-0 when Patrick Hawkins beat out an infield single with two outs as runners scored from second and third base.
Avon hosts Tri-County on Sunday. Tri-County is made up of players from Andover, Hebron, Lebanon and Marlborough. Many played at RHAM High in Hebron. Tri-County beat Willimantic, the Zone 6 runnerup, 2-0 on Saturday.
The winner of the four-team Group A advances to the four-team Northern Regional finals in Bristol.
Avon 5, Windsor 3
Windsor (9-13) 010 200 0 – 3-7-1
Avon (17-2) 000 050 x – 5-6-0
Alex Rosario, Patrick Hawkins (5), Joseph Shippey (6) and Marcos Marra; Connor Harris, Will Boone (5) and Jeremy Zarwanski; WP: Boone (3-0); LP: Rosario; 2B: Issac Rosario (W), Jake Coppen (A), Dylan Nastri (A), Ryan Ollestad (A)
Saturday, July 21
Game 1: Avon 5, Windsor 3
Game 2: Tri-Country 2, Willimantic 0
Sunday, July 22
Game 3: Windsor (9-13, Zone 8) at Willimantic (20-8, Zone 6), loser eliminated
Game 4: Tri-Country (14-8, Zone 7) at Avon (17-2, Zone 1), 2 p.m.
Tuesday, July 23
Game 5: Winner game 3 vs. loser game 4, loser eliminated
Wednesday, July 25
Game 6: Winner game 4 vs. winner game 5
Game 7: If necessary
Winner advances to 4-team Northern Division regional in Bristol