WALLINGFORD — The Wallingford Silver Storm of the Connecticut Collegiate Baseball League came up just short in their quest for a league title, falling 2-0 to the Simsbury Sabercats in winner-take-all league final at Pat Wall Field on Friday night.
Wallingford, which won just two games last year in its first season in the CCBL, finished second in the regular season standings at 14-7 before making a run to the final.
“They were a lot of fun to be around,” Wallingford head coach Matt Altieri said. “I respect them as players. They worked hard and they got better every week. They all played their roles. There was no desention or anything like that. They became a family after a couple of weeks. I’m proud of them.”
Simsbury came into the CCBL playoffs at 4-16-1 after finishing in last place, but won games when it counted, knocking off defending champion Glastonbury in the semifinals.
“It’s amazing,” Simsbury head coach Ed Lavoie said after winning the championship. “We had our issues in the season, but the guys turned it around. We made the routine plays that we weren’t making and then, after that, the rest managed to take care of itself.”
This one was a pitchers’ duel through and through. Both teams combined for just six hits.
However, Wallingford fell behind early, as an error extended the first inning, allowing Simsbury’s Chadd Richardson to rip two-run double deep into the right-center field gap.
“Everybody was taking turns,” Lavoie said. “One game it was Alex [Wichman]. Next game it was Chadd [Richardson]. When it was there time to step up, they did.”
The Silver Storm loaded the bases themselves in the bottom of the first on a Chris Rotondo single and two walks, but failed to push across a run.
After allowing the two unearned runs in the first, Wallingford starter Brendan O’Connell settled iin for the Silver Storm, retiring 10 batters in a row before Sam Collins reached on an error to open the fifth.
O’Connell got some help from his shortstop, Madden Ward, who made a couple of tough plays, including a nice backhand stab to retire Richardson in the top half of the fourth.
“He only gave up three hits today,” Altieri said of his starter. “He really developed all year long and became a really polished pitcher. When he goes back to Bentley [University] I think he’s going to have an increased role.”
O’Connell threw a complete game Friday. Wallingford, however, was unable to threaten much after the bottom of the first.
Simsbury wasted an opportunity in the fifth, as with Collins on third and just one out. The Sabercats attempted a suicide squeeze, but Scott Ziegler was unable to get the bunt down.
On the other side, Simsbury starter Andrew Fogarty was equally as good, allowing just two hits in five scoreless innings.
“We hit balls to people,” Altieri said. “There are a few strikeouts we’d like to take back, but they made plays.”
Simsbury threatened in the top of the sixth. E.J. Lavoie and Alex Wichman hit back-to-back singles with one out, but O’Connell was able to get cleanup hitter Ben Suski to pop out and Richardson to fly out to left to end the frame.
Noah Cruz relieved Fogarty in the sixth and shut the door, striking out three over the final two innings.
Wallingford did get a baserunner aboard in the bottom of the seventh — as Madden Ward drew a walk — but the Silver Storm were unable to bring him in.
As for Simsbury, one of the 10-year-old league’s five original franchises, this CCBL title was its first. The Sabercats lost in their previous four championship appearances.
“It was total team defense and small ball,” Lavoie said. “Everybody just played well together.”