By Paul Augeri
The Brooklyn Dodgers had their “Boys of Summer.” Middletown Post 75 apparently has cornered the rights on “The Boys of Autumn.”
The 75ers’ Junior Division (17U) team won the state’s fall championship for the second straight year, defeating Windsor/Windsor Locks 7-6 when Colin Loria drove in two runs with a double to deep left field in the bottom of the seventh.
The game was played in a steady drizzle Buzzy Levin Field at the Pat Kidney Sports Complex. There were several lead changes, 12 walks issued by Middletown pitchers and only five hits total (Windsor/Windsor Locks had just one).
However, there was no dampening the 75ers’ thrill of going back-to-back as fall champs.
“It was wild,” manager Dan Botti said.
The 75ers won three tournament games to finish 12-1-1 in league play and 14-2-2 overall. Loria, their leadoff hitter, had three of their four hits in the final – two doubles and a single — and drove in three runs.
“When Colin hit that ball, the players that all rushed the field,” Botti said. “They were all so excited. Already we were talking about next summer after the game and the really good vibe this team has.”
Post 75 built a 4-0 lead after two innings, only to see Windsor/Windsor Locks chip away and tie the score by the fifth.
The 75ers took a 5-4 in the sixth inning on a failed suicide squeeze. Caught off third, Jackson Salafia broke for home when the catcher threw back to the bag and beat the return throw.
Right-hander Tiernan Powers, who ended up getting the final five outs for the win, struggled with the wet ball. He walked three and allowed two runs as Windsor/Windsor Locks took the lead at 6-5 in the top of the seventh.
“Tiernan was tremendous all year. He just didn’t have it,” Botti said.
The stage was set for Post 75’s comeback.
Pinch hitter Dan Lyons worked the count and walked to lead off the seventh. Dan Lapham also worked the count and fouled off several pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with him walking. No. 9 hitter JJ Fox was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Loria, a middle infielder who led the fall team with 18 hits and a .419 batting average, crushed a pitch that fell just shy of the warning track, scoring Lyons and Lapham. Botti believes he was the 75ers’ MVP.
“He was my leadoff hitter all summer and fall, and summer and fall last year, too,” Botti said. “He’s always been so consistent at the plate. He’s like DJ LeMahieu (the Yankees’ leadoff hitter). I can play him all over the field. He makes contact. He’s just a great player.”
Lapham started on the mound for the 75ers and lasted 2 1/3 innings, allowing an earned run and striking out three. All told, Lapham and relievers Loria, Alex Mach and Powers combined for 12 walks, 13 strikeouts and 175 pitches.
“They battled,” Botti said. “Lapham had a good start and did a nice job setting the tone.”
Mach got the final out in the fifth and the first out in the sixth before Botti turned to Powers.
“If had to make the decision again, I’d go to Tiernan again. He is nails,” Botti said. “His ratio of good games to bad games is like 3,000 to 1. It was the first time I hadn’t seen him pitch well. Uncharacteristic for sure.”
Middletown’s 17U roster for the summer and fall was mostly a collection of players who played in the past for the program’s 15U squad previously coached by Botti.
“It’s been really cool to see the move up from 15U to 17U in the summer and fall with this core of guys,” Botti said. “They’re great and they work really hard. The new guys we got this year have worked so hard, too.”
The champion 75ers’ full 14-player roster, with high school:
- Kai Cottle, Middletown
- JJ Fox, Xavier
- Ethan Kupek, Coginchaug
- Dan Lapham, Middletown
- Colin Loria, Xavier
- Dan Lyons, Xavier
- Alex Mach, Coginchaug
- Kyle Noska, Xavier
- Rian Parker, Middletown
- Adam Passamano, Middletown (.283 BA, hit .420 last fall)
- Tiernan Powers, Xavier (.405 BA)
- Ryan Quinn, Middletown (.327 BA, 16 hits)
- Jackson Salafia, Xavier (.389 BA)
- Andrew Strickland, Middletown