Pictured: Middletown’s 19U Legion team gathers for the final time after Friday’s 11-7 loss to Avon in the American Legion state tournament semifinals. The 75ers won 21 games this summer, with most of its roster expected to return in 2022. (Paul Augeri Photo)
By Paul Augeri
SOUTH WINDSOR – Middletown’s thrilling run in the 19U American Legion state tournament ended with a thud in the semifinals Friday night.
Four games over four days took a predictable toll on Post 75’s pitching staff. With its top four unavailable due to mandatory rest and coach Dan Botti trying to piece together seven innings with less experienced arms, Avon broke out to an eight-run lead after an inning and a half and, despite three pitchers combining for 12 walks, didn’t allow Middletown to get ahead.
The final: Avon 11, Middletown 7 in the tournament’s Northern Division final at Rotary Field. Post 201 will play for its first state championship on Sunday against Southern Division champ Wallingford at Ceppa Field in Meriden.
Middletown compounded things with an uncharacteristic four errors on the night. And although the 75ers rallied to make it an 8-7 game, they missed opportunities with runners in scoring position in the second and third (the only innings they scored runs) and were unable to get anyone across with the bases full in the fourth.
Against winner Ty Bonney, an outfielder making his first appearance of the season, Middletown did not get a runner past first base in its three at-bats. For the game, the 75ers left eight runners on base.
“After the first couple of innings I was expecting both teams to end up with 20 runs or something like that,” Avon coach Miles Borenstein said. “It certainly wasn’t the greatest brand of baseball pitching-wise. I know both teams were running out of pitching.
“You’ve got to give Middletown a lot of credit. They were in the same position as us. They battled. But at the end of the day we had our bats working and kept the pressure on offensively. And Ty did a fantastic job coming in and shutting them down. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Post 201 (16-8) put the game out of reach with three runs in the sixth off Colin Loria, who was making his first mound appearance of the summer. Loria hadn’t played at all until this week because of a hip injury suffered in the team’s season opener.
Loria relieved starter Ryan Michaud, the 75ers’ regular first baseman, at the start of the fifth. Michaud gave up three runs in the first, aiding Avon with a throwing error on a bunt that led to one of the runs. He surrendered five runs in the second on three hits and two errors.
“I told Michaud and the team before the game, ‘We didn’t need Michaud to be Jacob deGrom, we needed him to go out there and throw strikes so we can make plays for him,'” Middletown coach Dan Botti said, “and we didn’t make plays for him. We were throwing the ball all over and booting the ball. You can’t do that against a (good) team like Avon.”
From his standpoint, Botti said the team’s four errors magnified their problems and felt like “five or six.”
“We’re built on our defense and our pitching, and we didn’t have any pitching today and our defense for whatever reason was booting the ball,” he said. “That combination is tough to come back from. But we could have rolled over at 8-0 and been mercied. We came back at 8-7, but it just didn’t fall the right way for us.”
Tyler Powell pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the 75ers, who finished with a 21-8 record.
Post 75 catcher Mike Garofalo had two of Middletown’s six hits and drove in two runs. Ryan Quinn, Loria and Spencer Misenti each had an RBI. Misenti and Jack Konopka reached base three times and scored two runs apiece.
Bonney and Max Rahe led Avon’s offense, each having two hits and scoring three runs, while Christian Boudreau drove in three runs.
Avon………….350 003 0–11 9 0
Middletown…043 000 0–7 6 4
Batteries: Avon–Danny Galliher, Nick Amatulli (2), Ty Bonney (3) and Emmett Borenstein; Middletown–Ryan Michaud, Colin Loria (5), Tyler Powell (7) and Mike Garofalo. WP: Galliher; LP: Michaud. 2B: A–Amatulli. LOB: A–4; M–8. DP: A–2; M–1.