St. Joseph gains Class M baseball semifinal

It was case of a seasoned veteran in Matt Laveneziana and an up-and-coming standout in Mike D’Agostino combining their talents to lead the St. Joseph High baseball team to a 2-0 victory over Plainfield High in a Class M state quarterfinal game in Trumbull on Friday.

With the victory, coach Jim Chaves’ 19th-seeded Cadets punched their ticket to their fourth straight semifinal. St. Joseph (14-9) will play No. 2 Montville High (21-2) on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.

“Matty has had a great year,” Chaves said of Laveneziana, who singled in both St. Joseph runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. “He’s a senior and had a great approach with two strikes.”

Laveneziana pulled a single through the hole into right field to plate Neil Valesquez, who had led off the frame with a single, and Mike Rotundo, who followed with a double.

D’Agostino pitched out of every threat posed by No. 22 Plainfield (13-10). The righthander saw the first two runners in the seventh reach base.

He hit pinch-hitter Pat Garrett with a pitch and Matt Kettle then singled for the Panthers’ eighth hit of the game.

That turned the lineup over, and leadoff batter and pitcher Jordan Federer stepped in, but D’Agostino got him to ground out to Tully Horne at first as the runners advanced a base.

With Dylan Horn at the plate, D’Agostino whirled and picked Garrett off third, with Andrew Walsh slapping down the quick tag.
“Dags has the best pick-off move to third on the team,” said Laveneziana. “I saw as he soon as he moved that he had caught the runner off guard.”

D’Agostino, who struck out six and didn’t walk a batter, put the last out in the book with another ground out to Horne.

“My defense is always there,” D’Agostino said when asked what he counted on in what was a run-challenged game. "They (Plainfield) had a great approach at the plate, so I just did what I could.”

Chaves is pleased with D’Agostino’s development.

“Mike was fabulous,” he said. “His first start with Ludlowe he lasted two innings in a 21-16 game. He had to learn how to pitch instead of overwhelming teams like he did in Babe Ruth.”

Plainfield, which had knocked off No. 6 Wolcott High 7-1 to advance to the quarterfinals, put runners on base in every inning but the fourth.

St. Joseph, which had earned the home game with a pair of road victories, also challenged only to be shut down by Federer, a tricky lefthander.

“Their kid was fabulous,” said Chaves, who has now guided the Cadets to seven straight quarterfinal round appearances.

Laveneziana said, “All day he had me guessing (with his breaking pitch). I stayed low on a decent pitch and made contact. I hoped it had enough to get past first.”

Dave Capela, Brendan Rush, Matt McKernan, Valesquez, Rotundo and Laveneziana had the hits for St. Joseph.

Steve Jankowski and Jason Biesladecki had two hits for Plainfield. Horn, Kettle and Federer had one hit each.