SOUTHINGTON — In days long passed when baseball teams earned their nicknames based on their qualities, the Southington American Legion squad would be known as the Sharks.
When there’s a little blood in the water, the Post 72 crew is all business.
For the second consecutive tournament game, Southington turned a scoreless struggle into a sea cruise in the sixth inning after the opposition stumbled afield.
Sizzling Josh Dobratz laced a two-run single to highlight a four-run uprising and southpaw Kyle Cole dealt out eight scoreless innings Monday afternoon as 12th-seeded Post 72 advanced to the quarterfinals of the Northern Division sectionals with a 6-1 win over No. 20 Terryville at John Fontana Field.
Southington (18-8), which has won 11 of its last 12 games, travels to Zone 6 champion Waterford for a best-of-three set on Wednesday and Thursday for the opportunity to qualify for the super regionals, which are slated to start Saturday at Muzzy Field in Bristol.
“I don’t think Waterford is going to be excited to play us,” manager Marc Verderame said, alluding to Southington’s longstanding reputation as one of the state’s top programs. “We’ve become a great team with good pitching. I’m more proud of this team than I was of last year’s.”
The talent-laden 2013 team led by Ted Shaw went to the state finals and lost to Branford.
Meanwhile, the Southington roster continues to diminish. Ace starter Joe Rivera has departed for UConn to fulfill academic obligations and catcher Zac Susi is opting out due to another baseball commitment.
But on Monday, nobody was concerned with the future.
Cole, who will play for Susi’s father John at Western Connecticut State University next year, had his inventory of pitches working in unison, yielding just three singles and two walks while striking out four.
“I was able to spot my two-seam fastball,” Cole said. “I used to back-door the hitters, inside to the right-handers and outside to the left-handers. I was snapping off the curveball and I like to spot the change, so if I have one of the two, I do well.”
Dobratz, a St. Paul grad who is headed for Clark University, pitched the final frame after collecting three of Southington’s 12 safeties. He credited Verderame with facilitating the difficult adjustment from the aluminum alloy bats used in high school to wood.
“When you use wooden bats you can’t have a long, loopy swing,” Dobratz said. “You can’t keep your hands too far out. You’ve got to bring them closer to your body so you can get more barrel on the ball.”
Dobratz’s revelation was bad news for Terryville (13-13). Left-handed starter Blaise Russo faced just two over the minimum through five with his defense turning two double plays, but Post 72 sent nine to the plate in the sixth.
The DeAngelo brothers Kyle and Ryan ignited the rally with successive opposite-field singles. Brett Shaw executed a sacrifice bunt but the first baseman’s throw sailed into foul territory. Kyle DeAngelo scored, Ryan went to third and Shaw pulled into second.
With one out, Dobratz ripped a two-run single to right. He circled the sacks, courtesy of an errant pickoff throw, a wild pitch and a passed ball. Southington led 4-0.
Four straight singles by Ryan DeAngelo (2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 stolen bases), Shaw, Susi and Dobratz pushed two more across in the seventh. Four stolen bases helped along the way.
“Give us an inch, we’ll make you pay,” Verderame said. “Dobratz struggled early. Hitting with wood takes a different approach. A private session and he’s hitting like a new kid. He’s a smart kid. He’s been on fire. He’s been our best hitter.”
Mike Milius had two hits and Terryville’s lone RBI.