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Avon beats Wallingford to win first American Legion state championship

Ben Angus leaps into the arms of teammate Danny Bae after Avon beat Wallingford, 4-2 at Ceppa Field to win their first American Legion baseball state championship Sunday. More photos

MERIDEN, August 8, 2021 – It took a team effort for the Avon American Legion baseball team to get to the state championship game.

It took another team effort to win it.

Pitcher Danny Bae allowed just four hits and struck out seven while his teammates made great defensive plays behind him and got big hits as Post 201 won their first-ever American Legion state championship with a 4-2 win over Wallingford Sunday at Ceppa Field.

Christian Boudreau had a two-run double in the third inning that put Avon in front for good. Center fielder Max Raha threw out a runner at the plate to end the fifth inning and Bae picked a runner off first base in the first inning.

“We were always in the game,” Avon’s first-year manager Miles Borenstein said. “We ran into some outs and got down early (in the game) but we didn’t give up. We trusted Danny would keep us in the game and our bats came alive and we got the runs we needed.”

The single-elimination tournament had four games in four days – a big challenge for teams that still must adhere to pitch count regulations to protect the arms of the ballplayers. Two of Avon’s top pitchers missed most of the tournament due to prior commitments. Ben Angus was available on Sunday. Dylan Love was injured and unable to play.

Avon third baseman Christian Boudreau (23) races for the ball in Sunday’s state championship game with Wallingford. Defensively, Boudreau had three assists and two putouts. More photos

Fifteen-year-old Luke Coppin pitched into the fifth inning and beat RCP in the second round, 9-3. The next day, Matt Leopold, who threw just 14 pitches in a non-zone game a week earlier, went the distance, allowing two hits to beat Bristol, 1-0. And on Friday, Tyler Bonney, who was a reliever at Plainville High this spring, pitched five innings of shutout relief in an 11-7 win over Middletown to get to the final.

“They know everyone is flexible and can play multiple positions and even when they were playing out-of-position, they were always talking each other up,” Avon general manager Steve Nyberg said.

Added Boudreau, who played six positions this season with Post 201, “We’ve had our ups and downs just like any state championship winner but I am really proud of this group,” he said. “We’ve really all come together. We’ve hit. We’ve played the field well and every single person on this team has contributed.”

Bae was able to keep Wallingford (20-6) off balance, despite walking four batters. “We weren’t able to hit Danny Bae,” Wallingford manager Chris Bishop said. “He pitched tremendously for them. We came in with a game plan and we tried to execute that game plan. But it seemed every time we hit the ball hard they had a guy there. They outplayed us in every way and shape and form.”

The Cardinals from Post 187 took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Justin Hackett walked and scored on Bill Gorry’s two-out RBI double down the third base line.

Avon responded in the third inning. First baseman Nick Amatulli led off with a single and moved to second base on a single from Bonney. Max Raha loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice when Bonney hustled to second base and beat the throw from Wallingford shortstop Joe Amarone to second baseman Parker Hunter.

Boudreau followed with a two-run double to center field to give Avon a 2-1 lead. Raha moved to third base on the hit and scored a few minutes later on a wild pitch for a 3-1 advantage for Post 201.

Wallingford cut the lead to one run in the fourth inning. With one out in the inning, Justin Lucibello reached base on an error and moved to second when the ball sailed out of play. He scored on Aidan Weir’s two-out RBI single to cut the Avon lead to 3-2.

Avon added an insurance run in the fifth inning. With two outs, Boudreau singled to center field. With catcher Emmett Borenstein at the plate, Boudreau stole second base. Borenstein’s hard-hit ball to Amarone at shortstop was bobbled and Boudreau, running hard with two outs, scored for a 4-2 lead.

Wallingford looked like they might cut into the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kyle Simmons coaxed a leadoff walk off Bae. Simmons was replaced by pinch runner John Cotter, who moved to second base on a successful sacrifice bunt.

Hackett came up and drilled a hard line drive right to Boudreau at third base for the second out of the inning. Boudreau finished the day with three assists and two putouts in a busy day at the hot corner.

Amarone swatted a single to center field and Cotter tried to score from second base. But Raha’s throw to Emmett Borenstein was on target and on time to end the threat and end the inning.

Bae retired the side in order in the sixth inning. In the seventh, Wallingford had a runner on first base with two outs when Chris Barkasy ripped a hard fly ball to center field but Bonney in left field was able to chase it down to end the game.

“That is the greatest thing about this team. We always have each other’s backs,” Bae said. “We don’t make errors in the field. We always keep each other up.”

Catcher Emmett Borenstein celebrates with pitcher Danny Bae (8) after Avon beat Wallingford for their first American Legion state championship. More photos

Bae was named the tournament’s most outstanding pitcher. Boudreau, who was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI, was named the tournament’s most valuable player. Gorry was named the tournament’s top hitter.

Bonney was 2-for-4 for Avon with a double while Nick Amatulli was 2-for-3 with a double. Bae (7-3) won his team-leading seventh game of the season and threw his third complete game.

Wallingford starting pitcher Justin Hackett went five innings and allowed six hits. He struck out five.

It was the first appearance for both teams in the state championship game, which dates back to 1926 in Connecticut.

For many years, teams played a best-of-3 championship series for the state title before playing a double-elimination tournament in 1962. Beginning in 2014, the state American Legion baseball committee went back to a best-of-3 series to determine a state champion.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no American Legion baseball season across the country in 2020.

This year in Connecticut, the American Legion baseball season started late due to the pandemic. To give players more changes to play, the season was extended into August and the format was changed to a single-elimination tournament.

To meet the deadline to submit a Connecticut team to the Northeast Regional, which is being held this week, the state had a 10-team qualifying tournament. The winner – Windsor Locks/Windsor – didn’t play in the Connecticut state tournament because they are competing in the Northeast Regional.

Avon 4, Wallingford 2
At Meriden

Avon (17-8)                        003  010  0  — 4-6-1
Wallingford (20-6)            100  100  0  — 2-4-1
Danny Bae and Emmett Borenstein; Justin Hackett, Parker Hunter (6) and Bill Gorry; WP: Bae (7-3); LP: Hacket; 2B: Tyler Bonney (A), Christian Boudreau (A), Nick Amatulli (A), Bill Gorry (W); 3B: none; HR: none

Recent Connecticut American Legion state tournament championship games or championship series.

Single-elimination tournament
2021: Avon 4, Wallingford 2
Best of 3 series
2020: no season, pandemic
2019: Stamford 2-1, Southington 1-0
2018: Southington 3-7, Ellington 1-6 (8)
2017: Stamford 6-3, West Hartford 2-0
2016: RCP 5-4-2, Stamford 4-6-0
2015: RCP 6-3-4, Stamford 5-9-1
2014: Cheshire 10-5-3, RCP 5-7-0
Double-elimination tournament final
2013: Branford 5, Newington 1
2012: Milford 6, RCP 5
2011: Norwalk 3, Branford 0
2010: Branford 5, Oakville 2
2009: Berlin 2, Milford 1
2008: Waterford 6, Berlin 1
2007: Branford 10, Shelton 7
2006: Bristol 3, Orange 2
2005: Branford 7, Torrington 0
2004: Bristol 5, Simsbury 3
2003: Simsbury 7, Bristol 6
2002: Berlin 7, Windsor 5
2001: Naugatuck 11, Milford 0
2000: New London 12, Rockville 1
1999: Norwich 10, New London 6
1998: Trumbull 9, Naugatuck 6
1997: Bristol 8, Trumbull 2
1996: Oakville 9, Norwich 6 (11)
1995: West Haven 2, East Hartford 1 (10)
1994: Bristol 8, East Hartford 5
1993: Southington 9, Meriden 2
1992: East Hartford 14, West Haven 0
1991: East Hartford 9, Berlin 5
1990: Waterbury 9, Fairfield 5
1989: Hamden 7, New London 5
1988: Danielson 7, Trumbull 0
1987: New London 12, Oakville 2
1986: New London 8, Willimantic 2
1985: New London 20, Trumbull 2
1984: Bristol 3, Wolcott 2 (10)
1983: Bristol 9, Stratford 5
1982: Middletown 10, Willimantic 2
1981: Meriden 15, Willimantic 3
1980: Trumbull 8, Middletown 1
1979: Middletown 10, Trumbull 1
1978: Waterbury 2, Bristol 1
1977: Trumbull 6, East Hartford 4
1976: Trumbull 16, Southbury 3
1975: Torrington 5, North Haven 3
1974: Vacated. (Bristol stripped of state and Northeast Region title for use of ineligible player. Bristol beat Bridgeport, 10-5 in state title game)
1973: West Hartford 7, Enfield 3
1972: North Haven 8, Niantic 3
1971: Naugatuck 6, Bristol 2
1970: Naugatuck 2, Middletown 0
1969: Naugatuck 3, Middletown 2
1968: Middletown 9, Sharon 5
1967: West Haven 2, Bristol 1 (10)
1966: Bristol 10, Waterbury 1
1965: Middletown 7, Hamden 3
1964: Bristol 1, Torrington 0 (11)
1963: West Haven 4, Stamford 3
1962: Bristol 7, West Haven 4
Best-of-3 series
1961: West Hartford 10-1, West Haven 6-0
1960: West Hartford 4-5, Fairfield 3-3
1959: West Hartford 3-9, Manchester 0-6
1958: Manchester 0-5-1, Stratford 2-2-0
1957: Stamford 10-5-5, West Hartford 4-8-1
1956: Stamford 15-8, Manchester 0-3
1955: Stamford 11-3, Willimantic 1-2
1954: Stamford 3-10-9, Willimantic 4-1-0
1953: Manchester 0-6-5, Bridgeport 7-6-4
1952: Bristol 7-3, Norwich 5-1
1951: Bristol 7-6, Hamden 2-4
1950: Bristol 9-2-2, Norwich 4-5-1
1949: Bristol 3-5, Willimantic 0-3
1948: Torrington 1-4-7, Willimantic 9-2-3
American Legion baseball in Connecticut dates back to 1926 when New Britain beat New Haven, 4-2 for the state championship and to advance to the Eastern Regional 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 35 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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