Cadets lose pressure cooker in semifinals
A two-out single by top-seeded Rocky Hill’s Brandon Glover drove in the game’s only run in the bottom of the 12th inning to end a Class M state tournament semifinal baseball game with 12th-seeded St. Joseph of Trumbull that featured a marathon of fine pitching, outstanding defense and missed opportunities by both clubs at Beehive Stadium in New Britain on Tuesday, June 10.
Rocky Hill improved to 22-2 and the Terriers will play 11th-seeded Haddam-Killingworth (18-6) for the state title, after the Cougars also went 12 innings to defeat Plainfield High in the first game of the extra-inning filled twin bill.
“I thought we had the momentum in the first four innings, but didn’t get the hit,” Chaves said of his Cadets (17-7). “I think the last few innings they dictated things. In twelve innings we didn’t beat ourselves."
Rocky Hill opened the 12th with its sixth hit, and first off of Jake Amoroso, who came on in relief in the bottom of the ninth to strike out two Terriers to leave two runners on base.
After a sacrifice bunt, Chaves had Amoroso intentionally walk leadoff batter Tommy Seaver. A walk on a 3-2 pitch loaded the bases, before shortstop Mark Hirschbeck, playing in, fielded a grounder and got the force out at home with a peg to Ismael Herrera at the plate.
That brought up Glover, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Amoroso had the count at 2-2 and didn’t get the called third strike he wanted. Glover lined the next pitch into center field to win the game.
Nick Williams got the start and struck out 12 batters and allowed only two hits through eight innings for St. Joseph.
Seaver proved just as tough, limiting the Cadets to four hits, two of the infield variety, striking out 11 and walking four batters through nine.
“Williams and Amoroso were great,” Chaves said. “Williams had a tourney, one for the ages. Our pitching brought us here. For the past 15 games we haven’t hit much. I guess the magic ran out.”
St. Joseph was looking to capture its second straight title. Wins of 5-0 over Norwich Tech, 2-0 over No. 5 Waterford and 3-2 in extra innings over No. 4 Montville had them in position to do so.
Despite the outstanding pitching, each team had its chances to end the game in regulation, and again in extras. The Cadets left 12 men on base and had two more thrown out stealing. The Terriers stranded 10 baserunners.
St. Joseph’s most telling defensive play came from second baseman Dave Capela in the bottom of the eight inning.
With runners on second and third with two outs, the Terriers’ Chris Bouchard floated one toward right field that seemed destined to find the grass.
On the run and with his back to the plate, Capela made the catch and the sophomore kept his glove elevated when he went to the ground so it couldn’t be jarred loose.
In the fourth, it was center fielder Mike Rotondo making the play to keep the game scoreless.
Seaver notched Rocky Hill’s first hit after Williams retired the first nine batters, and Dave Sevigny was hit by a pitch to put the first two runners aboard.
Williams looked to pick Seaver off first, but his throw was low and skipped into the outfield. Seaver headed to third, but Rotondo’s strong throw to Colin McKenna headed him off.
After another strikeout, Matt Lavaneziana made a fine play on Glover’s shot to the gap in left-center for the third out.
With Rocky Hill runners on first and third and two out in the home seventh, Herrera blocked a low pitch to save the winning run from crossing the plate. Williams bounced back to strike out Brian Batalis.
The Terriers’ infield proven impenetrable, as Bouchard at shortstop and Bunting at second base piled up highlight-reel plays.
In the 11th inning, Herrera worked out a walk and Hirschbeck drilled a pitch and the ball was ticketed for right field to put runners on the corners.
Bunting went belly first to snag the ball and get the out at first. Seaver was so excited by the fielding gem that he held onto the ball near the mound, and Herrera read the situation and scampered to third base.
Williams was intentionally walked, and after a stolen base, Seaver struck out Lavaneziana. Tully Horne walked to load the bases, but Bunting was perfectly placed to field Amoroso’s hard roller for the third out.
In the Cadet seventh it was Lavaneziana who led off the frame with a walk. He went to second on Horne’s sacrifice bunt. With two outs, McKenna hit the ball to Bunting, and his throw to first was to the infield side of the base.
With Lavaneziana rounding third, Josh Zawisa made a sweep tag that just grazed McKenna going by for the third out.
Sean Hurley had two hits for the Cadets. Williams, Rotondo and Herrera had one each.
After Hurley’s two-out hit in the 12th, Rocky Hill’s Bouchard went back on Herrera’s fly to no man’s land and made the catch on the run in left-center.