Worcester, Mass. – Southington Post 72 dropped its opening game of the 2019 American Legion Northeast Regional with a 4-3 loss to Vermont’s Brattleboro Post 5 at Hanover Insurance Park.
Similar to last year’s Northeast Regional, where Southington came in as the Connecticut state champion and dropped its opening game to Vermont’s Essex Post 91, Post 72 will find trying to advance in the regional from loser’s bracket.
“There’s no tomorrow for us,” Southington manager Marc Verderame said. “We’ve got about 13 kids that I’m not going to be able to coach again. I told them, ‘I want to keep coaching you, I don’t want this to end.’ We’ve just got to go out there and win.”
After struggling to generate offense against Stamford in the state final, Post 72 would jump on Vermont starter Adam Newton in the first inning taking advantage of some sloppy Brattleboro defense.
Leadoff man Sean Crean would start the rally with an infield single, where Brattleboro shortstop Tyler Millerick severely underestimated the Southington left fielder’s speed on a routine grounder.
Crean would steal second with one out and Newton put another runner on base by hitting designated hitter Kyle Leifert.
Once again, Brattleboro’s defense would cost them.
Catcher Josh Panarella hit a check swing grounder back to Newton, but he was unable to field it cleanly. The ball trickled back toward home plate, forcing Newton to throw off balance.
The throw would sail over first baseman Hunter Beebe’s head and down the right field line, allowing both Crean and Leifert to score.
Brattleboro would answer in the bottom half of the second, stringing together four hits and a hit by pitch to tie the game at two, but it could have been more.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Brattleboro catcher Daniel Petrie ripped a single to left, but Crean made a perfect one-hop throw to Panarella to gun down Jeremy Rounds at the plate, ending the inning.
Newton would settle in from there, keeping Post 72 off the scoreboard in the next three frames.
Southington would get runners on first and second with one out in the fourth, but Newton struck out both Jake Romano and Brandon Kohl to end the threat.
“We’re not hitting the ball,” Verderame said. “I think we’re better than this. We’ve got to make a run.”
Brattleboro would rally again in the fourth, starting with another double off the bat of Christian Thomsen.
Thomsen would come around to score as starting pitcher Jason Krar overthrew first on a bunt by Jack Price.
Brattleboro would continue to play small ball, picking up a bunt single by Rounds and then scoring again on a fielder’s choice by left fielder Christopher Frost.
That would chase Krar from the game, as Southington and Verderame would turn to Nick Borkowksi on the mound while trailing 4-2.
“It’s been tough we’ve lost three in a row now,” Verderame said. “We aren’t having any luck. We’ve just got to work harder, we’ve got to come through.”
Southington would answer in the fifth.
Crean got it started again for Post 72, doubling down the right field line. Leifert would single to center with one out, and Panarella followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the Brattleboro lead in half.
Southington would threaten in the sixth, getting runners on first and second for Crean, but he grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Battleboro getting Kohl by half a step at second.
“It was close,” Verderame said. “It’s a bang-bang play, but lately we flip a coin on those plays and lose every time on them. It’s a tough call, he might’ve missed it but we’ve got to come through we’ve got to leave no doubt.”
Southington would get two more runners on in the seventh with two away, but was unable to come up with the big hit.
After three consecutive losses, there is still hope for Post 72, who won two games after being in this same situation in the regional last summer.
“There’s still hope,” Verderame said. “We’ve got to hit the rest button, have some fun up here and come back tomorrow and play baseball.
“Tomorrow we’re facing elimination but we’ve got to go out there and play our game and wake the bats up.”
Post 72 will look to rebound on Thursday as they will get the loser of Wednesday’s Game 3 between Lawrence, Mass. and Nashua, N.H. Post 124. First pitch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.
“We’re going with [starting pitcher Ryan] Henderson tomorrow,” Verderame said. “My man Henderson he’s been there for us in elimination games. No other guy that I would want to have out there and he’s going to go out there and pitch a gem for us.”