WORCESTER, Mass. - It appears the Southington American Legion baseball team plays its best when its season is on the line.
After beating Ellington Thursday to avoid elimination from the Northeast Regional Tournament, Southington made sure it was playing over the weekend.
Behind a complete-game shutout from Ryan Henderson and some timely hitting, Southington beat Rochester, N.H. 3-0 Friday afternoon to move on to Saturday play.
Henderson allowed just four hits over his seven inning of work and struck out six. He only walked one Rochester hitter and only allowed three runners to reach scoring position - one of which came on a stolen base.
And while Southington didn’t have the offensive outing it did against Ellington when the lineup put up 12 runs on 11 hits, the team’s bats did just enough to provide Henderson will some room to work with.
Against Rochester starter Drew Nickerson, Southington collected six hits spread out over six different batters with Daniel Topper, Dylan Chiaro, Jeremy Mercier, Brayden Cooney, Jake Romano and Brandon Kohl all reaching base.
It was Cooney who set the tone of the game early, hitting a one-out home run in the bottom of the second inning. Mercier and Rochester’s Ashley Brody were the only two other players with extra-base hits, both recording a double.
Brendan Eaton, Bryan Lindsay and Logan Gadbois notched the other base hits for Ellington.
Southington tacked on its second run in the third.
Brandon Kohl led off the inning with a walk on four pitches and proceeded to steal second. After Topper popped up in the infield for the first out, Chiaro drove Kohl in with a single.
Southington scored its final run when Topper was allowed to stroll home after a balk by Nickerson, the second mistake of the inning from the Rochester pitcher. A sacrifice bunt by Chiaro and a throwing error by Nickerson in the subsequent throw allowed Topper to move to third.
Nickerson also tossed a complete game, giving up the three earned runs, while walking four to just one strikeout and received the loss.
With another 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 winner of Briantree, Mass./Portland, Maine tonight at 7 p.m.
Should Southington win against either Briantree, Mass./Portland, Maine, the team will play at 1 p.m. Sunday and again at 5 p.m. should it win the 1 o’clock game.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org