Pictured: Owen Clancy gets back to second on an attempted pickoff throw in the fourth inning of Monday’s Shoreline quarterfinal game against East Hampton.
By Paul Augeri
DURHAM – Where would the Coginchaug baseball team be without catcher Mike Garofalo?
Maybe a better question: Why would anyone want to contemplate such a thing?
Garofalo was his usual self on Monday – solid, stoic and still somewhat unsung – but he loomed large in the Blue Devils’ 5-3 Shoreline tournament quarterfinal victory over East Hampton, doing a lot of little things behind the plate to keep his team on point in its pursuit of the conference championship.
He also provided an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth, just after East Hampton scored three runs to wipe out a 4-0 deficit, with a sacrifice fly as the top-seeded Blue Devils (16-3) advanced to a Tuesday semifinal home game against Cromwell (a 1-0 winner over North Branford).
The Bellringers (10-9), after defeating Coginchaug at the tail end of the regular season just a week ago, now wait for their placement in the Class S tournament.
“We beat them the first time 9-1 (in late April) and then they came out Friday and whooped us around,” said Garofalo, the last player to leave the field Monday. “We thought we had it in the bag early today, and you saw what kind of team they are. They rally. It got a little too close there but we pulled it out, thankfully.”
Left-hander Kolby Pascarelli went 4 2/3 innings for the win, his sixth of the season. Anthony Morro, who got the final out of the fifth with runners at the corners, retired East Hampton in order in the sixth and Connor Willett did the same in the seventh for the save.
Garofalo was a third baseman and pitcher two years ago. This season, catcher Chris Carafeno, who had labrum surgery last year, moved to first when he couldn’t throw at 100 percent and junior Jeremy Mangiameli had the job at third sewn up.
Coach Mark Basil needed a spot for Garofalo and a catcher. Some lobbying from Pascarelli helped to convince Basil that Garofalo was the right fit. Today, he’s considered by some as the top defensive catcher in the Shoreline.
“Kolby did a good job talking him up,” Basil said. “The guys sold me on him. Mike has a great glove and was going to play him at first because we were going to pitch him, too. Then I took a look at him at catcher and thought, ‘Wow.’
“He doesn’t ever say anything, but you should see his hand at the end of the game from taking the pounding of Kolby, (Alex) Mach and (Alex) Tawa. All of these guys throw in the 80s and Mike doesn’t say boo. Great kid.”
Garofalo is happy with how things fell into place for him in his final season in a Coginchaug uniform.
“Chris previously did really well for us,” Garofalo said, “so for me to come in and back up what he’s done for us , I think that’s pretty big. I did a little catching in the fall for Kolby (with Middletown Post 75), but that’s pretty much it. I’m happy I’ve done as well as I have so far.”
Coginchaug jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning as Mangiameli drove in Willett and Owen Clancy with a single and Mangiameli ended up scoring on a wild pitch.
The Blue Devils added another run in the second off of East Hampton starter Carter Scovill. Clancy reached on a two-out infield single, stole second, went to third when the throw sailed into center and scored on Pascarelli’s line-drive hit to left-center.
Pascarelli, who is eligible to pitch in the Shoreline final on Friday if the team gets there, allowed a leadoff walk to Nate Bigelow in the fifth and a bunt hit by Darren Way. After striking out Avery Hall, Pascarelli got Hunter Peszynski to ground to short for what looked to be at least the second out of the inning, but Willett’s accurate throw eluded Jack Konopka at second and skipped into right field, with Bigelow scoring from second and Way advancing to third.
Way scored on an uncharacteristic mistake by Garofalo – a passed ball, compounded by the fact he couldn’t locate it – allowing Way to score. After James Quinn flied out to shallow left for the second out, Pascarelli walked Javy Diaz and gave up a sharp RBI single to Dan Cascio on a two-strike pitch.
Morro came on and got Josh Wagner, East Hampton’s cleanup hitter, to pop up to Pascarelli in right field for the third out.
Cromwell 1, North Branford 0
Zach Zajac drove in the Panthers’ only run and pitched a four-hitter with nine strikeouts.
Brian Radziewicz and Malcolm Mention had the other hits for Cromwell (14-5). North Branford (10-9) awaits its CIAC Class S seeding.
The Panthers defeated Coginchaug in their only regular-season meeting.