SOUTHINGTON — In a matchup of CCC unbeatens, the Southington baseball team not only beat Berlin on Tuesday, it outlasted Mother Nature to set up a week that could see the Blue Knights really shining by the weekend.
In a game postponed 24 hours and played under a gray but dry sky until the seventh inning, Southington overcame a shaky start to roll past the Redcoats 8-1 and improve to 3-0. Berlin lost its first game after a 4-0 start that saw the Redcoats defeat defending Class L state champion Wethersfield last week.
Jake Neuman worked around three Southington errors in the first two innings to earn the win. Neuman (1-0) threw five shutout innings, allowing just a leadoff single in the first inning. He threw an economical 77 pitches, striking out two Redcoats, and didn’t walk a batter.
The Blue Knights, meanwhile, scored in their final four at-bats. Junior Jack Meade and senior Bryce Worth each had three of Southington’s 10 hits.
Meade, who went 3-for-4, drove in three runs. His run-scoring triple in the third inning kick-started the Blue Knights’ offense, which scored three times in the frame and eventually led 6-0 after five innings.
Southington’s offense seemed to come alive after Berlin failed to take advantage of the Blue Knights’ shaky early defense.
Two Southington errors allowed the Redcoats to load the bases with two outs in the second inning. Neuman, however, got Berlin leadoff hitter Gianni Fanelli to fly out to center.
Fanelli was also stranded at third base in the first inning after singling to lead off the game and moving to second on the Blue Knights’ first miscue.
“I could feel the energy in the dugout. We started slow, but we got the job done after that second inning and got the energy up,” Meade said. “We are feeling good. We are ready to dominate the week.”
The Blue Knights are right back in action Wednesday with a non-conference game at Tolland. Southington then hosts Greenwich on Saturday.
But beating CCC rival Berlin — albeit a day later than scheduled — was a nice way to start the next few days.
“All the CCC games are big for us — actually, every one of the 20 (games) is big for us,” Southington head coach Charlie Lembo said. “We knew (Berlin) had a fast start and they had beaten a good Wethersfield team.
“I know they are always going to have a lot of fight in them and play great baseball.”
With Neuman stringing together shutout innings, the Blue Knights didn’t need much more than the three runs they got in the third.
“We are definitely riding high right now,” Neuman said. “We just want to keep this momentum going and win.”
Jake DelMonte started the third inning by turning around a slider by Berlin senior starter Adam Bilinsky for a clean single to center. DelMonte then scored Southington’s first run on Meade’s triple.
After Meade was thrown out at home on a slow roller to third base, Jake Romano and Worth came up with big two-out, run-scoring singles to stake Southington to a 3-0 lead.
“You get out of an inning defensively and then the offense comes alive. How does that always seem to happen?” Lembo said. “You get out of that inning without giving up a run and then all of a sudden the dugout is energized and we start stringing hits together. It’s just the way baseball has always been.
“I thought their starter did a nice job, but all of a sudden we got a couple of hits, and a walk or two here or there, and strung some runs together,” Lembo added. “You could just feel the energy.”
“[Getting out of the second inning] changed the momentum in the dugout. After that second inning we started hitting. It really helped us offensively,” Neuman said.
Southington’s three-run third inning chased Bilinsky, who had beaten Wethersfield 5-2 last week.
“He pitched well the first couple of innings, but then fell off the train,” Berlin head coach Leo Veleas said. “And you have to give [their] pitcher credit.
“Was he overpowering? I don’t know,” Veleas added. “Maybe we aren’t that good. He got us out, simple as that.”
With Bilinsky’s day over after three innings, the rest of Southington’s damage was done against Berlin relievers Nick Accarpio and Cam Murphy.
The Blue Knights added a run in the fourth on Billy Carr’s RBI single off Accarpio. Southington then scored two unearned runs in the fifth inning on a single by Meade with the bases loaded. Berlin shortstop Dan Veleas’ error extended the inning and set up Meade’s hit.
“We got nothing,” Leo Veleas said. “You saw it; you watched the game. Look, you don’t pitch, you don’t score any runs, you ain’t going to win. It’s as simple as that.
“The name of the game is pitching and defense,” Veleas added. “If we don’t have that, we aren’t going to win. Nobody is going to win.”
Berlin scored in the top of the sixth, but the Blue Knights answered with two more runs off Murphy. A two-base error by Murphy and a single by Tyler Strong set the table for Worth’s two-run single and an 8-1 Southington lead.
“I feel like anyone in the lineup can hit right now,” Worth said. “We stood our ground and then dominated them.”
“I like where we are at right now. I like the way we are swinging the bats up and down the lineup,” Lembo said. “I like our pitching. I think we can throw anyone of our 10 guys out there and feel confident with them on the mound.”
Neuman, just a junior, is one of three Southington starters who Lembo will relying on heavily this season. Senior Ryan Henderson beat Hall last week and gets the start in Tolland, while fellow senior Jason Krar, who beat Conard, is slated to start Saturday’s game against Greenwich.
Against Berlin, senior Nico Gaudio and junior Vincent Spizzoucco finished what Neuman started by pitching one inning each. In all, the Blue Knights allowed just three Berlin hits, walked one batter and struck out four.
“Just a great effort by our pitching staff,” Lembo said. “It’s going to be, ‘Next man up,’ like it always is. I was happy to get Nico an inning out there and also Vinny an inning. That’s what we want to do. All these guys can contribute.”