MIDDLETOWN – A three-run homerun from Jamie Palmese helped second-seeded Berlin baseball get by No. 22 Lyman Hall, 8-5, during the semifinal round of the Class L state tournament Tuesday at Palmer Field.
Palmese curved an opposite-field dinger around the right field foul pole during the second inning for his only hit of the game, highlighting a seven-run inning for the Redcoats.
“There was a lot of momentum going into it,” Palmese said. “I felt like anything can happen, no outs, I had to take a swing. He threw an outside pitch so I knew I could take it opposite field.”
Berlin’s leadoff hitter was the only batter on either side to finish the contest with more than one RBI and teammate Justin Piskorski was the only other Redcoat who earned an extra-base hit (double).
“If he isn’t one of the best outfielders in the state, I’ll leave my hat,” Berlin coach Leo Veleas said. “He should’ve been on the all-state team. He’s played great for us all year long.”
Sal Dastoli, Nick Spinali and Connor Gileau cracked RBI singles in the second as well, giving the Redcoats a 7-1 lead after two innings.
Lyman Hall slowly chipped away at the lead, scoring twice in the third, once in the fifth and once in the sixth to make it 7-5 in the sixth inning, but Piskorski’s two-bagger--another stinger down the right field line--during the bottom half of the sixth gave Berlin some insurance heading into the final inning.
The Redcoats received 4 1/3 serviceable innings from starter James Ellis, who scattered six hits, three runs and three walks, while striking out three, before Matt Kozak came in and went the rest of the way.
Kozak’s very first pitch was taken for a ride by Lyman Hall’s Ryan Brockett, knocking a double to the left field fence, however Berlin’s No. 1 only allowed one more hit the rest of the game.
“We had great pitching behind us, we couldn’t do it without them,” Palmese said. “Matt Kozak came in and shut it down. James Ellis [was] great pitching, kept fighting, and kept our team in the game.”
Kozak was tagged with two runs, four walks and one strikeout in 2 2/3 innings.
“I ask my pitchers, ‘how many of you guys can throw the ball 90 miles-per hour?’ Not one hand goes up. I said ‘okay, put that aside. If you have rotation and movement on your ball, you’ll be successful,’” Veleas said. “Location and movement, in clutch situations, you have to throw those things for strikes.”
Dastoli kept up his hot hitting as the Redcoats third baseman ripped singles in all three of his at-bats, finishing as the only Berlin batter with multiple hits.
Lyman Hall starter Justin Hackett settled in after a rough second inning, concluding with seven strikeouts and two walks, along with all eight runs on eight hits, in 6 2/3 innings.
Hackett also smoked a triple during the third inning, which led to a pair of runs from the visitors.
The victory clinches the Redcoats’ second-straight appearance in the Class L title game as they’ll face off against No. 1 Daniel Hand on Saturday. Berlin lost to Waterford, 1-0, in 2019.
Hand beat Avon, 2-1, in 10 innings prior to Berlin’s game Tuesday.
“I hope it’s a premier matchup,” Veleas said. “I hope our guy pitches well, I hope we play defense again, and we get some clutch hits. Hopefully it’ll be a good game. That’s all I can ask for. There’s no regrets. If we play well and we lose, we tip our hat to the other team, but when we play well, we’re not bad.”
“They were a great team,” Palmese said. “I’ve seen them all over highlights and stuff but as long as we play our game we’re going to be fine. We’ve done it all season. We have great pitching, we have Connor Gileau coming back, he just threw a shutout against Windsor, he’s been pitching great. The bats are hot, so I think we have a lot of momentum.”
Hand will be playing for its first state title while Berlin will be aiming for its seventh. First pitch at Palmer Field is set for 7 p.m.
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes