MIDDLETOWN — Undaunted.
That’s the best way to describe the Lyman Hall baseball team.
While the Trojans came up short in the Class L state semifinals, falling 8-5 to Berlin on Tuesday night at Palmer Field, No. 22 Lyman Hall didn’t let the Redcoats run away en route to Saturday’s title game.
Lyman Hall scored four times after No. 2 seed Berlin scored seven times in the second inning to take a 7-1 lead.
Lyman Hall, playing in its first state semifinal since the Class L title season of 2002, kept grinding and threatening. The Trojans loaded the bases in the sixth after getting within 7-5.
But Lyman Hall left those men on base in the sixth – their 10th, 11th and 12th runners stranded in six innings, then made it 13 total left on base for the game with one more in the seventh.
“You look at the scoreboard and it was really just that one inning that ate us up,” said Lyman Hall coach Billy Rich. “My kids didn't give up. We chipped away here and there. It was just too much to overcome.”
Lyman Hall got within 7-5 in the sixth on a single by Ty Casey after cutting the deficit to 7-4 in the fifth inning on Ryan Brockett’s double off Berlin reliever Matt Kozak.
In every inning but the second, the Trojans put a runner in scoring position.
“We just needed that one big hit,” Rich said. “Maybe put up a three-spot in one of those innings.”
The Redcoats sent 11 batters to the plate in the second inning and appeared on their way to an easy win.
LH starter Justin Hackett, however, settled down after the second inning to record two straight 1-2-3 innings and strike out the side in the fifth. Hackett went 5 2/3 innings, leaving after Berlin’s Justin Piskorski doubled in the Redcoats’ eighth run in the bottom of the sixth.
Hackett finished with eight strikeouts. He was coming off an impressive outing in Groton where he twirled a three-hit shutout in LH’s 4-0 victory over Fitch.
“A lot of kids would give up; he’s a competitor and fighter.,” Rich said of the junior. “That’s Justin for you in a nutshell. He beared down and kept us in the game.”
As a result of Tuesday’s semifinals, the top two teams in the Class L state playoffs will share the stage in Saturday night’s final. Berlin will play top-seeded Hand for the championship. The Tigers outlasted No. 12 Avon in 10 innings, 2-1.
The Trojans, who initially led 1-0 on Tuesday, saw their season end at 12-10. Berlin improved to 21-3.
Berlin’s Jamie Palamese provided Berlin’s biggest blast of the second inning with a three-run home run that kept going the opposite way over the right-field fence. Palamese’s blast was one of six hits by the Redcoats in an inning that saw Berlin send 11 batters to the plate.
With a steady rain falling from the third inning on, the Trojans made it a game again. Lyman Hall came right back to score two runs in the top of the third to get within 7-3. Hackett’s 400-foot triple to center field scored Aidan Weir. Hackett then scored on a fielder’s choice.
“We've been down early in a bunch of games this year. This group of guys always fights back; we never lay down,” Hackett said. “We aren't going to let another team pile on us. We always try to fight back.”
The Trojans again threatened in the fourth, putting runners on first and second with one out. Hackett, however, just missed a fast ball, flying out to deep left field.
With Trojans now at second and third, cleanup hitter Anthony Boyle’s grounder up the middle looked to be headed to centerfield for a two-run single. But Piskorski ranged over from shortstop and made the play to first base to end the inning.
Lyman Hall struck in the fifth on the double by Brockett. But in what was a recurring theme, Lyman Hall left its 8th and 9th runners on base in the fifth inning.
The Trojans did chase Berlin starter James Ellis early. The southpaw, who had thrown six shutout innings in Berlin’s second-round win over East Lyme, gave up a pair of hits and two walks in a shaky first inning against LH.
On a wet night, control was an issue. Berlin pitchers walked seven.
“I tip by cap to my pitcher. It was tough conditions out there — for any pitcher to be able to throw in this stuff,” said Rich. “Nobody could grip the baseball, so I really tip my hat to both pitchers.”
The Redcoats’ scoreless streak in the state playoffs ended four batters into the semifinals when Boyle singled to center field to score Weir (2-for-4) to give the Trojans a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans then proceeded to load the bases with two outs, but couldn’t do any further damage as Brockett flew out to left field.
Hackett worked around a first-inning walk, striking out two Redcoats in the opening frame.
In the fateful second, Hackett gave up his first hit on the first pitch. Things would just get worse from there. Hackett walked Nick Dastoli on a 3-2 pitch and then turned a Tyler Rice sacrifice bunt into an infield hit when he took a peek at third base before throwing too late to first.
Hackett’s decision loaded the bases and set the stage for the decisive inning.
Lyman Hall reached the semifinals with a 7-5 win over North Haven on Saturday. Hackett once again was in the center of the action with a late home run. The Trojans trailed 3-0 after the first inning, but rallied behind Thomas Pallotta’s 6 2/3 innings of relief.
The Trojans earned its trip to the semifinals with victories over No. 11 Wilcox Tech, No. 6 Fitch and No. 19 North Haven — all on the road — to advance to the semifinals.
Six-time state champion Berlin advanced via shutouts over No. 31 East Haven (8-0), No. 18 East Lyme (5-0) and No. 7 Windsor (4-0).
The loss ended the Lyman Hall careers of 11 seniors, led by captains Weir, Jarred Kirk and Jake Ranney. The other seniors on the team were Joe DiCrosta, Pallotta, Brockett, Boyle, Dan Beverage, Brendon McEvoy, Stephen Lawler and Nick Vitale.