Special To The Press
AVON - The Southington Post 72 bats were kept quiet by Avon starter Connor Harris and his defense behind him, losing 3-0 in the first game of the American Legion state tournament’s round of 16 at Buckingham Park.
The teams meet again for the second game in the best-of-3 series today at 3 p.m. at Avon’s Buckingham Park, with the third game to follow immediately if Southington wins the second.
Harris threw a complete game shutout for Avon, keeping Southington batters down in key situations.
“We hit the ball today, but we couldn’t execute and that was the difference in the game,” Southington head coach Marc Verderame said. “They executed and got the guys over, we didn’t.”
Avon also put on a defensive display all evening on Tuesday. In the third inning, first baseman Shawn Del Gallo leaped into the fence in foul territory to make a spectacular play to end the inning.
Prior to the play, with a runner on second for Southington, Daniel Topper attempted to put down a bunt to advance Mason Dibble to third. Instead, his bunt popped out to Harris, who turned it into a double play.
“Pitching and defense wins championships,” Avon head coach Don Annicelle said. “That has been our M.O. all season, that we have good pitching and good defense.”
Bailey Robarge also had a strong pitching performance for Southington. The only inning where he ran into trouble was in the third, when he could not command the strike zone.
Robarge walked the lead-off man in the inning and Joseph Suski advanced the runner to second. But Robarge hit the next two batters to load the bases with only one out.
Justin Olson brought in the first run of the game with an RBI force out to give Avon a 1-0 lead.
“It all starts with a walk and then he hit two guys and you can’t come back from that. They didn’t even get a hit that inning and they scored,” Verderame said. “Little things like that are the differences in games in this league and execution is the key and they executed better than us.”
Southington had its chances in the third, fourth and fifth innings with a runner on second in each of those innings, but they were not able to cash in to bring in the run against Harris.
Avon tacked on two more insurance runs against Robarge in the sixth.
Will Thramann led off the inning with a single to get things brewing. A wild pitch by Robarge advanced Thramann to second and he scored on an RBI triple by Olson, his second RBI of the game.
Avon got its third run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Zarwanski. A single by the next batter ended Robarge’s night.
Robarge permitted three runs in five and one-third innings to keep Southington close.
“I think they just got to him,” Verderame said. “It was their third time through the order and they have seen him a lot, you know it’s tough. But he battled and kept us in it. We just didn’t score, so what are you going to do?”
Kimberly Pena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @Kimberly_P12