Cadets find way to gain semifinal berth

The 11th-seeded St. Joseph Cadets kept their state championship dreams alive with a gutsy 4-3 win over third-seeded North Branford to advance to the Class M semifinals on June 1.

Ryan Moran was the hero, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including the go-ahead single in the top of the seventh.

Junior hurler Nick Williams (7-2) pitched a stellar game for the Cadets, going seven innings and allowing three runs.

“The last at-bat was a big at-bat, Ryan got the hit when it mattered.” said St. Joseph head coach Jim Chaves, whose 18-6 team will meet 10th-seeded Montville (18-5) in Tuesday’s semifinal at 3:30 at New Britain’s Beehive Stadium said of Moran.

Joe Prutting also had two hits for the Cadets. Matt Batten scored two runs and singled to start the game-winning rally.

Ishmael Herrera added a single and an sacrifice fly in the third, while Brett Olayos, Jake Amoroso and Williams each added singles.

Matt Edwards, Michael Funaro and Chris Caron each had two hits for the Thunderbirds, while Nick Perrelli, Kyle Hart, Nick Candelora, Will Coleman and Mike Schettino each added a hit.

Schettino (7-1) matched Williams, going a complete seven innings and allowing four runs.

St. Joseph threatened in the first inning. Batten worked a leadoff walk then stole second with Prutting at-bat, and advanced to third on a deep fly from Prutting.

Moran then struck out and Matt Hirschbeck grounded to short to end the threat.

The Cadets got a man on again in the second when Nick Williams reached on a one-out single but was stranded by Mike Pulaski and Olayos.

St. Joseph got things going quickly in the third, as Amoroso singled to lead off.

Batten followed with a walk and Prutting singled to load the bases with no outs for Moran, who ripped a two-run double to right-center, scoring Amoroso and Batten and moving Prutting to third.

After Hirschbeck struck out, Herrera flew out to right scoring Prutting to give the Cadets a 3-0 lead.

The Thunderbirds answered with two runs in the bottom of third with three consecutive singles from Schettino, Funaro and Edwards to load the bases.

After Williams retired Brandon Basil, Perrelli grounded to Williams, who got the force out to Herrera at the plate.

Caron smacked a two-run double to center, scoring Funaro and Edwards to cut the Cadets’ lead to 3-2.

In the bottom of the fourth, North Branford tied the game. Candelora led off with a walk  and Funaro singled him home to make it a 3-3 game.

After the game-tying single, Williams retired the Thunderbirds in the next three innings, allowing just two hits in the fifth.

“He’s been steady all season,” Chaves said of Williams. “He did a great job pounding the zone, he didn’t give up many free base runners with walks. He did have that one rough patch in the middle of the game, but I thought after that he really settled down. We know what to expect out of him and he expects a lot out of himself.”

Meanwhile, the Cadets continued to threaten with a runner in the fifth and two in the sixth but the game remained tied entering the seventh.

Batten led off with a single, stole second, and advanced to third on a Prutting bunt to first.

Moran then hit a single along the left field line, driving in Batten to take a 4-3 lead.

Down to their last hacks, Williams forced Basil to ground out to Batten at  short and Perrelli and Caron to fly out to right to seal the 4-3 win and advance to the Class M semifinals.

“They believed the whole time,” Chaves said. “We have great senior group led by Matt Batten and Moran. Those guys they just really want it bad. I want it for those guys.”