SOUTHINGTON - Two teams will square off at Ceppa Field this weekend with a chance to cement their names as Connecticut’s best.
The Southington Legion baseball team will take on Ellington in a best-of-three series starting tonight at 6:30 p.m., with the winner bringing home the state championship.
“It’s such an incredible feeling,” Southington pitcher Ryan Sheehan said. “I’ve been a part of this program for four years with some of these guys. Just to finally make it to the ‘big game’ is an exciting feeling.”
It has been an up-and-down season for Southington, having three separate multi-game losing streaks this season. But Southington has played its best baseball of the season in the last three weeks, winners of nine of its last 10 games, including a 13-inning marathon game Tuesday against Cheshire.
“We’re playing confident right now,” Sheehan said. “Guys are playing for each other. Nobody is playing for themselves out here. It’s full team wins and team losses. Everything has just been ‘team, team, team.’ It’s awesome to be a part of.”
Southington head coach Marc Verderame said the low points of their season, such as being mercied twice in three games in the middle of July, helped prepare for the team for their playoff run.
“They’ve grown up as a team in these two short months,” Verderame said of his squad. “They battled when everyone counted us out. They have the hearts of champions. And hopefully this weekend, we will be.”
It was a tough road to the final for Southington, needing to beat top-seeded Cheshire along the way. But Ellington had to earn their way as well, winning 13 of its last 15 games, dating back to the regular season. Ellington beat RCP and Tri-County twice in the Super Regional.
But one hurdle for Southington could be its pitching staff. Both Jeremy Mercier and Sheehan threw more than 100 pitches Tuesday night against Cheshire when Southington clinched its spot in the championship series. As a result, neither pitcher will be able to toe the rubber this weekend. Sheehan alone has pitched 15 1/3 innings in the playoffs for Southington, the second most of anyone on the staff.
Ellington will be facing a similar problem. Dakota Aldrich and Sefan Lesco will both be ineligible to pitch in the title series.
Still, Southington is enjoying the moment as it looks to capture its second crown in program history and first since 1993. The team did reach the title round in 2013, but lost to Branford. Ellington, meanwhile, has yet to win a state championship in its history.
“It would be indescribable,” Sheehan said of winning the state title. “I can’t even imagine what it would be like winning a championship, not only for the guys - we all want it so bad - but for the town of Southington. Look at our fans coming out to support us every game, no matter where we’re playing. They’re always super loud, rooting for us. And we feed off them. So we’re playing for them as well, and to win it for them would be huge.”
The series will conclude Saturday, whether it is one or two games. The winner of the series will then move on to the Northeast Regional tournament, which begins Wednesday in Shrewsbury, Mass.
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org