Special To The Press
AVON - The American Legion state tournament series between Southington and Avon was a wild one, but it was Avon which came out on top with a 4-3 victory in the third game to advance to the next round.
Avon was leading the second game 8-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning before Southington head coach Marc Verderame spoke to the umpires about his suspicion of an ineligible player.
Jake Coppen, who came on in relief of Avon starter Kyle Emry, was deemed an ineligible player because he appeared in a showcase tournament, therefore disqualifying him from playing in the rest of the Legion competition and forcing Avon to forfeit that game.
“They had played an ineligible player. Legion rule states once the playoffs start, a player cannot go to some sort of showcase and one of their players did,” Vederame said.
“One of our players did, too, and he was our starting left fielder and he hasn’t played in the last two days. I had to tell him and break the news to him that he was off the tournament. I told our kids not to go to any showcase and he had went because he had already paid for it.”
Avon head coach Don Annicelle said he was unaware that his young pitcher had made a showcase appearance.
“I guess one of the players on their team [Southington] played in a showcase and unbeknownst to me, one of my players was playing in the same showcase,” Annicelle said. “He didn’t let me know that, so when I put him in the game he became an illegal player and that is why we had to forfeit.”
Before the forfeit, Emry was pitching a shutout until one out in the sixth before being relieved by Coppen.
Will Thramann, Justin Olson and Ryan Ollestad went a combined 7-for-12 with four RBI prior to the sixth-inning mess.
With the momentum leaning more toward the Southington side, ace Nick Borkowski was not able to shut down Avon’s bats in the first inning of the rubber game.
Miles Borenstein lined a two-run single to get things rolling for Avon and give it a 2-0 lead.
Avon tacked on two more runs, one in the third and one in the fourth, putting Southington in a 4-0 hole.
Southington was kept scoreless for 18 consecutive innings before breaking through in the sixth inning for three runs against Avon pitcher Olson.
With the bases loaded and one out, Jake Babon lined an RBI single to cut the deficit to 4-1. Bailey Robarge followed with a strikeout before Brandon Kohl lined a double into the gap to score two runs, but the tying run was gunned down at the plate on a relay play by Avon.
“We had to take the chance with the bottom of the order coming up,” Vederame said. “We will take the chance. They executed a perfect relay play, plus their execution.
“That is a huge execution play right there all the way from the right field fence, two throws and fast tag. They made a great play. I’ll take a chance any day.”
Southington went down quietly in the seventh to end their season, but it was a season that Vederame is proud of nonetheless.
“It was a good season. We started off 1-3 and we knew what we had pitching-wise and we knew we struggled with hitting,” Vederame said.
“But to be where we are at, to finish here, we overachieved. You know we fought every game, scrapping runs, pitching well and I think it’s a great season.”
Kimberly Pena can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @Kimberly_P12