SOUTHINGTON - The Southington Legion baseball team is just three wins away from cementing itself in the history books with a state title.
After struggling to get by Trumbull in the Pod E final, Southington has turned the corner and made its last two wins look easy, defeating Oakville 3-1 on Saturday and shutting out Cheshire 4-0 on Sunday. As a result, the team now sits in the Super Regional Southern Division final against Cheshire, which shutout Naugatuck, and is just one win away from the best-of-three championship round.
Southington head coach Marc Verderame credited his team’s success from the mound as one of the main reasons why Southington has been able to make it this far when in previous years has fallen short.
“We’ve gotten excellent pitching,” said Verderame, whose team is looking for its first state title since 1993 and first title appearance since 2013. “In that first game, it was Ryan Sheehan against Trumbull. Then Nick Borkowski [pitched] against Oakville and Ryan Henderson against Cheshire. The guys all went out there and threw great games. And we executed when we needed to on offense. The team has been playing great.”
The win over Cheshire is the team’s best win of the season to date. Cheshire finished the regular season 25-3 for an .893 winning percentage, the second highest in the state.
Southington lost its first three games to Cheshire, the only other team to beat them in Zone 3, but have won their last two meetings between the two, including the Super Regional game.
“I keep telling the players ‘you’re judged by who’s standing at the end, not by some loss in the fourth or fifth week of the season,’ the head coach said. “We knew all along we were a good team that could play with anybody. Baseball is a game of failure and anybody can beat anybody on any given day. We knew that we could stand up with these kids and play with the best of them.”
Now it will be a matter of how Southington responds to its next opponent.
Southington is in the same position as it was against Trumbull, needing only one win to advance while its opponent will need to win twice. This time around, the goal is to win the first game and to avoid a win-or-go-home situation like it did last week.
“We don’t feel the pressure,” Verderame said of the team’s mindset. “We go out there every game the same way. We’ve got a loose atmosphere around here. We’re going to go out and play like it’s a Tuesday game in June.”
Verderame said Sheehan would get the start in the first game. If Southington loses, Borkowski would start on the mound in the second game.
Should Southington win and move on, they’ll take on the winner of the Northern Division. RCP will take on Ellington or Tri-County to decide the other finalist.
“Usually you don’t like to look ahead,” Verderame said. “But when things were at a low point for us about two weeks ago - we were mercied by Meriden - I told the kids ‘let’s go on a run and win the state title.’ We made a promise that were going to go out and try to win it for the town, for each other. I’d be remised to say ‘don’t look ahead,’ but we’ve been looking ahead. This is our goal and our goal is in sight.”
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org