STAMFORD—Their eyes are firmly on the prize.
The Stamford American Legion 17U Baseball All-Stars stayed unbeaten in the Connecticut State Tournament Sunday as they rallied to conquer North Haven, 5-3 at Cubeta Stadium in the Southern Division POD H final.
“That’s the fun of coaching an older age team. These kids battle,” said Stamford Post 3 manager Tim Daly. “They play to the last out.”
Stamford Post 3’s character was apparent Sunday. They fought back from a 2-0 deficit to forge a 2-2 tie. North Haven Post 76 went ahead 3-2 in the top of the sixth. But Stamford responded with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to secure the victory.
More importantly, Stamford (3-0) earned the POD H crown without having to play the IF NEEDED contest on another hot and humid afternoon.
It also means Stamford can reset its pitching. Stamford is among the final eight teams. Stamford will now be part of a four-team, single-elimination bracket that will return to action on Tuesday in the neutral site of Bethel.
Stamford Post 3 is expected to play Tuesday at either 2:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. against an opponent to be announced. A meeting Monday should finalize the brackets.
STAMFORD HITTERS STEP UP
Stamford Post 3 made the most of their six hits and four walks off a trio of North Haven pitchers.
Trailing 2-0, Stamford tallied twice in the bottom of the third. No. 9 batter Tyler Lueders drew a leadoff walk, stole second and scored on Ethan Anderson’s RBI single.
Anderson moved to second on a wild pitch and tallied on Joe Gambino’s two-out, RBI single to center for 2-2.
Stamford Post 3’s winning rally came with one out in the bottom of the sixth.
Emmett Donoghue reached on an infield throwing error and Mike Berlingo fouled off five pitches before drawing a walk.
Ross Green’s opposite-field single to right scored Donoghue for 3-3.
“My mindset was to put the ball in play. At the very least, move the runners over,” Green said. “It was a letter-high fastball that I put an inside-out swing on.”
That brought up lefty-swinging catcher Jack Palmer, who had struck out his first two at-bats. Palmer lined a bullet off the first base bag that plated Berlingo for 4-3.
“After my opening at-bats, I just wanted to get the go-ahead run in,” Palmer said. “It was a fastball inside and I was out in front of it. The ball caught the first base bag. This team is all about picking each other up.”
Lueders followed with a safety squeeze bunt toward first base that scored Green for 5-3.
“Our entire season has been like this,” Stamford manager Daly said. “We get good at-bats because no one is afraid of hitting in the big spot.”
STAMFORD PITCHING EFFECTIVE
Stamford Post 3 displayed its deep pitching staff while advancing to the Final Eight.
Dylan McMorrow had a one-hitter in six innings of work in Stamford’s opening victory over West Haven. Lefty Matt Tiplady tossed six shutout innings in Stamford’s 8-1 win over North Haven last Thursday. Nick Otis fanned six and walked six in 5 1/3 innings Sunday.
Righthander Pete Johnson closed out all three Stamford wins in four innings of work.
“Our pitchers were fresh,” Daly said. “And Pete (Johnson) has been doing his thing all season.”
TOUGH ENDING FOR NORTH HAVEN
Give North Haven Post 76 (2-2) credit for battling back to the final for another road battle with Stamford.
However, at state tournament time, playing any extra games will take a toll on a pitching staff. Especially with the present pitch count/rest formulas.
North Haven took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. Mason Balmer and Colby Cusano drew one-out walks. Gianni DiMartino laced an RBI single to right. Anthony Cretella doubled in Cusano.
However, North Haven left the bases loaded.
In the top of the sixth, Tony Cinicola reached on an infield hit when Otis slipped off the mound and went to second on a passed ball.
With one out, Johnson relieved for Stamford. A fastball in the dirt ricocheted off catcher Palmer’s shinguard and far to the left. Cinicola scored from second on the wild pitch for 3-2.
SOUTHERN DIVISION POD H FINAL
STAMFORD 5, NORTH HAVEN 3
NORTH HAVEN 002 001 0—3 5 2
STAMFORD 002 003 x—5 6 0
Batteries: NH—Ryan Sullivan, Tony Cinicola (4), Nicholas Rossi (6, L) and Anthony Cretella. S—Nick Otis, Pete Johnson (6, W) and Jack Palmer.