WORCESTER, Mass. — The opening game of the Northeast Regional proved to be a lesson in frustration for the Southington American Legion baseball team Wednesday morning.
Despite putting leadoff runners aboard four times, Post 72 managed to bring just one of them home in suffering a 4-1 loss to Essex, Vermont at Fitton Field on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross.
The setback puts Southington in the losers’ bracket facing either a long road deep into the tournament or a quick ride back home. Post 72 plays Ellington, the team it beat to win the Connecticut championship, on Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m.
“We just didn’t hit,” said Southington head coach Marc Verderame. “I thought Ryan Sheehan pitched a good enough game for us to win, but we just didn’t hit the ball.
”We’ll come back tomorrow; we’re not out of it. We’ve been in this position before, with our backs against the wall, and we’ll try to get the win.”
Southington was playing catchup from the get-go Wednesday, as Essex got to Post 72 starter Jason Krar for a run in the top of the first.
The Vermont champs built on their lead, plating a single run in the third inning and two more in the fifth. That put the gap at 4-0 before Southington finally broke its scoreless spell in the bottom of the sixth.
Dylan Chiaro (2-for-3) scored that run for Southington. He led off with a double, took third on a fielder’s choice and, on the same play, scooted home a throwing error.
Other than that, Post 72 left runners stranded, including two in both the fourth and fifth innings.
In the fourth, a leadoff single by Chiaro and a walk to Brayden Cooney gave Southington runners at first and second with no outs. Vermont pitcher Maverick King got out of the jam via a fly to center and strikeout. Chiaro was caught trying to steal third base for the final out.
Jake Romano singled leading off the Southington fifth. King struck out two batters, hit Dan Topper, then got Southington’s hottest hitter, Jeremy Mercier, to pop up.
King went the distance to earn the win. He allowed just five hits and walked one while striking out nine. The one Southington run was unearned.
Krar took the loss in his one inning of work. Sheehan tossed four innings. Jacob Weed and Justin Verrilli finished up.
The loss was only Southington’s second of the posteason. After falling to Trumbull in pool play, Post 72 had reeled off six straight wins to capture the Connecticut state championship.
“We didn’t hit well today. They had a good pitcher that kept our hitters off balance,” said Verderame. “I believe in these kids and we’ve got Nick Borkowski going for us tomorrow. He’ll try to right the ship and get us back on the right track.”