Pictured: Coginchaug’s Mike Garofalo winds up at third after hitting a run-scoring double in the third inning in Tuesday’s Shoreline Conference game against Hale-Ray. (Photo by Tammy Clancy)
By Marc Silvestrini
DURHAM — After three innings of play in Tuesday’s matchup between Coginchaug and Hale Ray, two undefeated Shoreline Conference rivals, the score stood at 5-1 in favor of Coginchaug.
The problem for Hale-Ray coach Richard Gable and his Noises — who would go on to lose their first game of the season by a final score of 8-1 — was that four of those five runs were unearned, spoiling an otherwise good effort by senior starter Aiden Clarke.
“You just can’t win a game when you make six errors, especially against a good, well-coached team like Coginchaug,” Gable said. “And we know that. Defense is something we work very hard on at practice.
“But sometimes in this game the ball just starts rolling the wrong way, your guys get a little frustrated and the next thing you know your whole team is pressing and the mistakes get contagious.”
Largely as a result of those mistakes, Coginchaug improved to 5-0 on the season while the Noises fell to 4-1.
Hale-Ray took a quick 1-0 lead against Coginchaug starter Alex Tawa in the top of the first inning when Cameron Watkins ripped a run-scoring double down the third-base line to score leadoff man Oliver Ross, who had been hit by a Tawa pitch and had stolen second.
“That’s the first time we’ve been behind all year, so I was very interested in seeing how we responded to being down,” Coginchaug coach Mark Basil said.
The Blue Devils responded exactly how you’d expect an undefeated team to respond, but not without a little help from Hale-Ray’s infield.
Connor Willett led off the bottom of the first by reaching base on an infield error, one of four miscues the Noises would make in the inning.
The second batter Clarke would face, right fielder Kolby Pascarelli, hammered the third pitch he saw high and deep to right field, easily clearing the fence about 12 yards to the right of the 340-foot sign.
Pascarelli’s two-run blast immediately erased the Noises’ early lead and likely provided the exact response Basil was hoping to see from his team.
“It was a changeup, at least that’s what I thought it was,” Pascarelli said. “I knew it was gone the moment I hit it because it had plenty of distance and was high enough to clear the fence.
“I just go up there trying to hit the ball as hard as I can,” he added. “I really don’t care where it goes, just as long as I hit it hard some place.”
Added Basil, speaking of Pascarelli: “He’s a quality hitter, through and through.”
Despite claiming the lead, the Devils weren’t finished in the first. Two straight infield errors, offset by an excellent throw by Hale-Ray catcher Ross which picked off the runner at second, left a man on first with one out.
Chris Carafeno followed with an infield single and yet another Hale-Ray throwing error put runners at second and third. Coginchaug’s Anthony Morro then brought home Jeremy Mangiameli, the runner at third, with a sacrifice fly to right, increasing the Devil lead to 3-1.
After a scoreless second, the Devils took advantage of two more Hale-Ray errors to add two more runs to their lead in the third. After Mangiameli drew a one-out walk, Clarke’s wild throw on a pickoff attempt enabled Mangiameli to scamper to third. He scored one out later on a dropped infield popup off Morro’s bat, and Morro came home moments later on a ringing double into the left-field corner by Mike Garofalo to stretch the Devil lead to 5-1.
The Devils sealed the deal in the last of the sixth with three runs on a two-run double by Jack Konopka and Pascarelli’s RBI single.
Meanwhile, Tawa, a hard-throwing lefty, was pretty much untouchable after surrendering the Noises’ lone run in the first inning. The junior picked up his second win of the year by working five innings of three-hit ball, fanning eight and walking one.
“I was focusing on attacking the (strike) zone and going after their hitters,” Tawa said, adding that though he did not have his best slider on Tuesday he was able to use it just enough “to get into their heads.”
Willett, who started the game at shortstop, relieved Tawa in the sixth, pitching two innings of one-hit ball with three strikeouts.
Pascarelli had two hits and three RBIs to pace the Blue Devils’ eight-hit attack. Willett, Carafeno, Garofalo, Konopka, Evan Faiella and Chris Racki had the other Coginchaug hits.
Watkins, Miles Gagne, Avery Gugliotti and John Sodergren collected the Noises’ four hits.
“I’m really happy with these guys,” Basil said. “Our pitching and our defense behind that pitching have been outstanding this year. Pitching and defense — that’s what we’re all about.”
Coginchaug will host Cromwell Wednesday at 4 p.m. and travel to East Hampton on Friday for a 3:45 p.m. game. Hale-Ray hosts East Hampton on Wednesday and Haddam-Killingworth on Friday, with both games scheduled to start at 4.
HR 100 000 0–1 4 6
Cog 302 003 x–8 8 1
Pitchers: HR–Clarke; C–Tawa, Willett (6). WP-Tawa; LP-Clarke. 2B: HR–Watkins; C–Garofalo, Konopka. Home Runs: C-Pascarelli. Records: HR 4-1; Coginchaug 5-0.