Cadets earn berth in Class M final

Middle infielders love to have ground balls hit their way, and St. Joseph High shortstop Matt Batten and second baseman Mark Hirschbeck made the most of their opportunities when the 11th-seeded Cadets played 10th-seeded Montville in the Class M state semifinals at Beehive Stadium in New Britain on Tuesday.

The keystone combo turned three double plays, with an assist from the long-legged Ryan Moran at first base, and coach Jim Chaves’ team defeated the Indians 7-3.

“When the ball comes to me, I’m thinking double play,” said Batten, who assisted on twin-killings in the fourth and fifth innings each time with the bases loaded. “This is Mark’s first year at second base for us. He gives me good feeds and I get the ball to Ryan at first.”

St. Joseph (19-5) will play top-seeded Northwestern (23-1), an 8-5 winner over fifth-seeded Holy Cross (19-5) of Waterbury in the other semi, for the title at Middletown’s Palmer Field at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Hirschbeck doubled to drive in Batten, who led off the game with a walk, and he scored on Ishmael Herrera’s single for a 2-0 lead in the first.

St. Joseph scored five runs in the third, thanks in part to two of Montville’s five errors in the game.

Nick Williams and Jon Prutting had two-run singles in the frame.

Montville (18-6) kept the score there the rest of the way, and threatened Cadet starter and winning pitcher Jake Amoroso in the middle innings.

Four-straight one-out singles after a hit batter made it 7-3 in the home third, when Hirschbeck made a quick underhand toss to Batten on leadoff hitter Brandon Haas’ grounder up the middle. Moran stretched up the first base line to make the catch from Batten, while he held his foot on the bag.

“That was a big play by Moran in a key spot,” Chaves said. “Our defense has been our strongest suit all season.

“That (Montville) is a quality team and I knew we were going to get something from them. They swing the bats well.”

Montville had two straight hits to open the fourth, make that three straight, but center fielder Prutting came up throwing on Jordan Volpe’s gapper, and fired a one-hop strike to Herrera, who made the tag at the plate for the first out.

Nick Clemons worked Amoroso for his third walk to load the bases, and Moran came on in relief, where he got Jordan Zeppieri to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Moran retired four straight batters before he hit Joe Brachas with a pitch with one out in the seventh.

Buddy Dewaine hit the next pitch to Batten, who stepped on second and fired to first for the game-ending double play.