Section 2 Little League: Shelton American 8, Avon 6 Shelton American reaches final
NAUGATUCK — The ball that Avon’s Connor Lavore hit in the top of the third might not have come down yet, and Shelton American knew staving off Little League Majors elimination wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
Shelton American bounced back, scored four in the fourth to regain the lead, then held off another Avon rally in the sixth to win 8-6 Friday night at Peter J. Foley and advance to the Section 2 championship game.
“That big boy deposited one deep into the woods, and our kids realized we’re in for a fight,” Shelton American manager John Larkins said. “We did not play a very good game yesterday (a 7-1 loss to Wallingford). We did not come out today and play the cleanest of games; we were better.”
His team gets a chance to improve a little more when it meets Wallingford once more on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the section final. The winner advances to the four-team state tournament that begins Wednesday in East Lyme.
Saturday’s game was originally scheduled for later in the day but was pushed to the morning to beat an expected storm.
“It’s less than 12 hours to get these kids turned around and rested. But they’re kids,” Larkins said.
“And everybody and their brother can have excuses and say ‘it’s not fair,’ and that’s exactly why it’s going to work. ... Kids have a funky way to make you look silly when you bet against them. That’s exactly why I want my kids to have that approach. I want them relaxed.”
Larkins said he has four pitchers available tomorrow. Austin Leifer won’t be one of them. Pitching for the second day in a row, he got the win Friday against Avon with three innings in relief of Nick Coppola.
“We’ve got kids who can throw hard and kids that can throw a lot of offspeed stuff. I like the way that mix works for us,” Larkins said
Shelton American scored one in the first and one in the second Friday, but it had chances for more in both innings, twice leaving the bases loaded after getting them on with one out. Avon starter Harrison Engle set them down in order in the bottom of the third, too.
And that came after Lavore’s three-run home run in the top of the inning, clearing about a 20-foot wall about 20 feet behind the left-field fence.
“Two kids not with their best stuff on the mound today,” Larkins said. “It is a game of inches, as we said. They put a ball in the sweet spot one too many times. These are all-stars.”
Two walks set the table for Shelton American with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Nicolas Piscioniere’s single to right snuck through to the fence, the error allowing Coppola to follow Paden Larkins home and Piscioniere to reach third. Ayden Sepkaski’s ground ball brought him home.
Jacob Giard scored later on an error to make it 6-3.
Piscioniere and Sepkaski drove in three runs apiece, including one more each in the bottom of the fifth. Shelton American collected nine hits in all; Gael Quiroga and Piscioniere had two apiece.
Avon’s Lavore and Jacob Wirth had well-struck doubles in the top of the sixth to cut into the lead, and Avon brought the tying run to the plate, but a strikeout ended the game just about 12 hours before Shelton American will be back on the field to warm up.
Larkins smiled. “Good thing we’re only 19 miles down the road.”
SHELTON AMERICAN 8, AVON 6
AVON003 003—6 11 3
SHELTON AMERICAN110 42X—8 9 2
Records: Avon 0-2; Shelton American 1-1. Batteries: A—Harrison Engle (L), Luke Coppen (4), Connor Lavore (5) and Jacob Wirth; SA—Nick Coppola, Austin Leifer (4, W) and Paden Larkins, Nicolas Piscioniere (4). Home runs: A—Lavore.