TRUMBULL — Losing a baseball game is never taken lightly, especially when that loss ends your season.
No.1 seed Trumbull Post 141 and No. 3 seed Wallingford Post 187 both went into Wednesday night facing elimination in Pod H of the American Legion state tournament at Trumbull High School, where the home team was able to defeat Wallingford 3-2 in the 11th inning.
Wallingford, which took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning, saw its season close at 15-13. Trumbull (20-7) advances to play Naugatuck on Thursday in the Pod final, with a trip to the Southern Division Super Regionals at Ceppa Field on the line.
“We couldn't get anything going against [reliever] Evan Jay Warner,” Post 187 coach John Amendola said. “He just kept shutting us down and shutting us down. We got ahead in some counts, but we got a little over-anxious, I think, where maybe we could’ve gotten some walks. We just couldn’t get anything going.”
With a pitchers’duel cooking between starters Andrew Harvey of Trumbull and Kevin Vining of Wallingford, both teams spent the night searching for the big hit. While Wallingford was able to grab a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth against Harvey, Trumbull was able to pull even after Vining was taken out of the game in the seventh.
After Vining allowed a leadoff single, Wallingford reliever Tyler Lyons was able to retire the first two Trumbull batters he faced. But Dan Massaro knocked a base hit to right field to put runners on first and second with two outs and his brother, Matt Massaro, followed with a ball up the middle to plate the tying run.
On the play, Wallingford threw out the potential winning run at home to end the inning.
After the two teams went scoreless in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings, Matt Massaro drove home the winning run in the 11th when he ripped a Caden Cloutier offering into left-center field.
Amendola said his team was able to stay upbeat throughout the game.
“They are a confident, fun-loving and happy-go-lucky group,” Amendola said. “We fought the entire game. Scoring runs has been our bugaboo all year. It was just another night of not getting enough runs in. That makes it so, when we make mistakes, it is that much more critical.”
Wallingford showed fortitude throughout. The lone blemish of Vining’s outing came in the first inning when he surrendered a RBI single into the right-field gap that plated the game’s first run.
Post 187 broke through in the fourth inning.
Tyler Lyons reached base on an error and Russell Edeen followed with a bullet to right field, putting runners on first and third base. Evan Wilkinson knocked in the first Wallingford run with a single.
Post 187 still had runners on first and second with only one out, but the inning ended with both getting erased on the base paths — one at third attempting to advance on a wild pitch, the other at the plate trying to score on a third-strike passed ball.
Vining, meanwhile, was throwing efficiently. The lanky lefty finished the game with six-plus innings, surrendering one run and throwing only 87 pitches.
“Kevin is one of the most happy-go-lucky kids you will ever meet,” Amendola said. “I told him after the game that it was the best game I saw him pitch in two years. He fought through it and he stepped up today for his team. That is the furthest he has gone all year.”
Post 187 was able to grab a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning. After Harvey got Pat Christensen to fly out to left field, Tyler Lyons drilled a triple and Edeen brought him home with the go-ahead run.
Amendola said Lyons has proven himself as an all-around baseball player.
“Tyler is a gamer. They all play hard and they all want to win, but there is no one that wants to win as much as him,” Amendola said. “There is no one who takes it as hard as he does. I might be the only one who takes it harder than he does. Baseball is life for him. He eats it and breathes it. It is who he is.”
Once the game was over and it was Trumbull that advanced and not Wallingford; Amendola spoke to his team.
“I told them I was really proud of them and what they did this year,” Amendola said. “They fought hard. I had personal goals at the beginning of the year for this team. I wanted to get us back to the playoffs and we did that. I wanted to get a win in the playoffs and we did that. We played a great game tonight.”