SOUTHINGTON - The Southington Legion baseball team had a chance to punch its ticket into the Super Regionals with a win over Trumbull at Southington High School Wednesday afternoon. Now, the team finds itself in an all-or-nothing situation.
Needing one win to advance, Southington’s afternoon began with a tough 3-1 loss in extra innings and then ended rather abruptly. The second game, started following the conclusion of the first, was suspended in the bottom of the first inning due to rain and will resume today at Trumbull with Southington holding a 2-1 lead.
“We brought it on ourselves,” Southington head coach Marc Verderame said. “We shouldn’t have to be playing [Thursday]. We had a chance to get it done today and we couldn’t get it done.”
Of course, the first game didn’t end without controversy.
In the top of the eight, Trumbull’s Daniel Ruchalski hit a ball down the right field line with the bases loaded. The ball dropped near the line and was called fair, leading to the deciding two runs.
“I think it was right on the line, a bang-bang call,” Verderame said of the play. “Without the benefit of instant replay, I can’t really say either way. But that’s what happens when you put yourselves in that situation. We could and should have won that game earlier. You can’t blame the umpire. We can only blame ourselves.”
Southington did have plenty of opportunities to take control of the game. The team at least one runner reach base in every inning except for the eighth, but its only run came in the second inning when Trumbull catcher Robert Goldsmith threw the ball into left field with Southington’s Daniel Topper trying to steal third base, causing him to come around and score.
“We normally come out looking to swing, and today I think we took some hittable pitches,” Southington first baseman Brayden Cooney said. “Ultimately, we just didn’t have it today. The bats were kind of asleep. They took one from us today and we’re going to have to pick it up.”
Cooney was one of the few hitters who had a solid day for Southington. In the first game, the lefty went 2-for-3 and drew a walk. He was the only player on the team to notch a multi-hit game. He also started the second game out strong. In his at-bat in the first inning, Cooney ripped a two-out single to center that drove in two runs to give Southington the early lead.
“I just come out here and look for hittable pitches,” Cooney said. “I tell myself, ‘don’t miss hittable pitches, no matter what’ and I didn’t miss them today. I just come out, swing hard and try my best to help the team the best I can.”
Ryan Henderson also did his part on the mound in the first game for Southington. In seven innings of work, Henderson gave up just one earned run, surrendered seven hits and didn’t walk a single batter.
“I think I did pretty good and came out strong,” Henderson said. “I didn’t throw that many pitches. The guys were making plays behind me. Everything just seemed to work out.”
Henderson’s biggest adversity in the game wasn’t even the opposing batters, but the weather. Periods of heavy rain came and went throughout the game, forcing tough field condition and even two brief rain delays during the first game.
“It’s just about trying to stay warm,” Henderson said. “You can’t get cold in the dugout. You always have to have a sweatshirt or something on and stay warm before you go out onto the mound. It’s just about staying loose.”
The defense was also key to Henderson’s start. On top of playing error-free baseball, the fielders took away hits and prevented Trumbull batters from taking extra bases. Center fielder Brandon Kohl led the defensive effort. His lone putout was a diving grab in the fifth inning. He also threw out two runners at second base.
“That just pumps me up,” Henderson said of the defensive effort. “That just makes me want to go out there and throw more. When you know you have your team behind you like that, it’s just motivation.”
Play will pick up Thursday right where Game 2 left off, with Southington up a run in the bottom of the first. Only this one will finish up at Trumbull High School.
“Baseball is a game of failure and you have to have a short memory,” Verderame said. “We’re going to go out and play it like it’s our last game and forget about today. I think the delay, in a way, helps us. It helps us forget. It’s a new day new game and allows us to move on.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org