MIDDLETOWN – When St. Paul walked off Palmer Field last year, the team quietly gathered their equipment and boarded the bus. As they sat there deciphering what exactly had led to their defeat, they promised themselves they would be right back in the championship game next year.
On Tuesday night, their promise was fulfilled as the Falcons beat No. 12 Immaculate 7-0 in the semifinals to advance to the Class S state championship. St. Paul will play No. 3 seed Somers (20-4) for the title Saturday afternoon at Palmer Field in Middletown.
“It’s a long road to get back, but a lot of these guys are returners from last year and they set the goal early on,” St. Paul coach Victor Rinaldi said. “After the game last year they said it on the bus ride home. It was a quiet bus ride home, but I remember that bus ride home and the returners said we are going to get back next year and give ourselves an opportunity to win it and they did. They did a really good job. I’m proud of them.”
The Falcons came out hot in the first inning, quickly jumping out to 4-0 lead. Devin Kulas got the ball rolling as he hit a single to center field before getting to third due to an error after Immaculate threw away the ball attempting to pickoff Kulas at first. Ryan Daniels then brought Kulas home after also hitting a single to center field.
Daniels would score shortly after getting a base hit by Casey Cerruto. Joseph Tonnotti and Cerruto then scored in the first inning all before Immaculate’s Thomas Conley could throw his second strikeout and end the inning.
“We prepared the last couple days for the lefty Conley,” Rinaldi said. “We kind of had a feeling he would start. We did our homework on him and we had some really good approaches on him in the first there.”
Rinaldi said the approaches they had against Conley allowed them to get four runs, which set the tone for the game early on.
St. Paul’s pitcher Brendan Foley also benefited from the early lead. Rinaldi said as a pitcher, getting four runs early in the game settles you down. However, Foley’s confidence never wavered. In total, he had 13 strikeouts, three of which came in the first inning.
Foley said prior to the game he envisioned exactly what he wanted to do in order to get the job done and advance to the big game.
“It was a heartbreaking loss for us in the finals last year, but I think that really fueled us to get here,” Foley said. “That’s what fueled me to pitch good today.”
Rinaldi said Foley not only had a great game, but he has had a great year.
“Anytime he’s on the mound to start or Joey Tonnotti, we’re confident we’re going to have a good chance every time they’re on the mound,” he said.