WORCESTER, Mass. - Good things tend to happen for the Southington American Legion baseball team when it faces Ellington in postseason tournaments as of late.
Five days after sweeping Ellington for the state title, Southington avoided elimination in the Northeast Regional Tournament Thursday afternoon with an easy 12-1 win.
It was a much different Southington team than the one which fell flat in its opener against Essex, Vt. After managing just five hits and scoring a single run on an error in Wednesday’s loss, Southington’s offense had few issues against Ellington starter Dakota Alrich.
“We woke up a little bit today,” Southington head coach Marc Verderame said. “I was talking with one of my coaches, Bob Borkowski, and he said, ‘sometimes it’s better off playing the devil you know.’ But when you play a team like that, you have to bring your best.”
Every member of Southington’s lineup collected at least one of the team’s 11 base hits and seven different players drove in at least one run. Daniel Topper and Tyler Cyr led Southington with two hits each. Topper went 2-for-4 with an RBI, three runs scored and stole two bases, while Cyr went 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and a stolen base.
Dylan Chiaro, Josh Panarella, Jeremy Mercier and Brayden Cooney provided eight of the team’s 12 runs with two RBI a piece.
“It was a total team effort,” Verderame said of his offense. “We had 11 hits. Everyone contributed up and down the order and I think that’s what makes us a dangerous team, especially coming from a wood-bat league and using aluminum [in this tournament].”
Southington was able to get to Alrich early. The Connecticut state champions scored twice in the first inning on singles by Mercier and Andrew Owsianko, tacked on another run in the second thanks to a Chiaro sacrifice fly and scored two more in the fourth on a ground rule double by Panarella.
Alrich received the loss, giving up five of those runs in five innings. He also walked five and struck out three.
But Southington kept rolling even after Ellington’s starter was pulled, adding seven more runs - all unearned - off reliever Mike Dubiel in the top half of the seventh inning to put the game further out of reach.
The early run support allowed Southington starter Nick Barkowski to relax and just pitch. Over 3 2/3 innings, Barkowski gave up just one run on four hits to pick up the win. He also struck out three and only walked one batter.
“[Barkowski] had his top stuff today,” Verderame said. “He was bringing it. But we wanted to limit his pitch count because we’re trying to win this tournament, not just today and we wanted him for later in the week should we get there.”
Ellington’s lone run came off a base hit by Sam Corriveau off reliever Justin Verrilli, who replaced Barkowski with two outs in the fourth.
Verrilli pitched the next 2 2/3 (three total) scoreless innings and struck out a batter. Connor Patenaude closed out the game on the mound for Southington, getting Chase Kidd to ground out to Topper at second for the easy play. In all, Ellington managed to put just four runners in scoring position.
With one challenge out of the way, Southington will have to win three straight games in order to capture the regional championship and move on to the American Legion World Series, which begins Aug. 16 in Shelby, N.C. The team will play the loser of Portland, Maine/Rochester, N.H. today at 4:30 p.m.
“We believe we can run the gauntlet,” Verderame said. “We just gotta continue to pitch well. Ryan Henderson is going for us [Friday] and we like where we’re at. We believe we have the best pitching staff in the state, if not the region. If we put up some runs, we like where we’re at.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org