Pictured: The Rams won their third straight Monday with a convincing 5-0 victory over defending Class S champion Coginchaug. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
OLD SAYBROOK – Shortly after his team’s 5-0 win over defending Class S champion Coginchaug on Monday, Old Saybrook senior center fielder Nick Scalzo said he hopes the final result sends a loud and clear message to the rest of the Shoreline Conference.
“We just want to show all the people out there that we mean business,” he said. “Our season got off to a little bit of a slow start because we had two rainouts last week, but now we’re 3-0 and putting everything together. We want people to know we’re for real.”
The Rams handed the Blue Devils their second straight defeat behind a dominating effort by senior right-hander Jake Butler, who twirled a four-hit shutout, and Scalzo, who led the Saybrook offense with two hits and a pair of RBIs.
Butler fanned six Blue Devil batters while walking three.
“I felt very comfortable out there today,” Butler said, adding that he was able to keep the Blue Devil batters off balance by complementing his fastball with “a lot of sliders” and a few changeups.
“They’re a good hitting team, but we managed to mix things up pretty good and keep them guessing,” he said.
Though he is only three games into his career as a head coach, the Rams’ Ryan Fraser knows all about Coginchaug, having served as an assistant for Haddam-Killingworth coach Mark Brookes for the past three years.
“That’s a very good team over there,” he said. “They have a very strong baseball culture that makes them very hard to play, year in and year out.”
In fact, Fraser is hoping to build that same kind of winning culture at Old Saybrook – a culture that breeds both confidence and consistent success, on the diamond and off.
“We’re getting there, but it’s a slow process that takes a patient, even-keel approach,” he said. “Right now, I’m telling my guys that they have to keep focused on improving, that they can’t be getting too high when we win or too low when we lose.”
Coginchaug starter Connor Willett matched Butler through the first three innings of play, fanning five of the first nine batters he faced and limiting Saybrook to a single base runner, who reached on an infield error, during that span.
But with the game still scoreless, Willett got into trouble in the bottom of the fourth when he walked leadoff hitter Noah Hester and gave up his first hit of the game, a single by Rams catcher Connor Lane.
That brought up Scalzo, who promptly broke the scoreless tie with a hard-hit single to center that scored Hester and moved Lane to third. Lane then scored when the next hitter, first baseman Noah Grace, hit an RBI bouncer to the right side that ultimately resulted in an infield error, though Lane was breaking for the plate on contact and would have scored even had the ball been handled cleanly.
With runners at the corners and no one out, Willett then pitched himself out of the jam by fanning the next two Saybrook batters and getting third baseman Carson Brown to bounce to short.
The Rams then pushed across two unearned runs in their next turn at bat to give Butler what appeared to be a commanding 4-0 lead. Nick Rothman came off the bench to lead off the Saybrook fifth with a single and then a steal of second. Willett retired the next two Saybrook hitters, but a two-out infield error off Lane’s hard grounder scored Rothman to stretch the lead to 3-0.
Scalzo then ripped a long double over the center fielder’s head to easily score Lane and give Butler four runs to work with heading into the sixth inning.
The Rams scored another unearned run in the last of the sixth when Bill Albert beat out an infield bouncer, moved to second on a throwing error and to third on a passed ball. After a walk to Ed Devaney, Devaney broke for second enabling Albert to race home on the back end of a double steal attempt, setting the final score at 5-0.
Willett, who pitched better than the final score indicates, allowed four hits and only two earned runs in five innings of work, fanning eight and surrendering one walk. Sophomore Henry Bugai pitched the sixth inning for the Blue Devils, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one.
Coginchaug coach Mark Basil said he thought both starting pitchers acquitted themselves well. However, he was quick to add that the Blue Devils are not clicking on all cylinders in other facets of their game.
“He (Butler) was dominant out there today, he pretty much controlled the game” Basil said. “Part of that, though, was that our guys were going up there without a plan.
“We didn’t hit today, we didn’t field the ball, we didn’t run the bases very well. … Right now, it looks like we’re going to have to do some serious work on a lot of things.”
Aside from Scalzo’s two hits, Lane had a hit and two runs scored while Rothman and Albert each had a hit and scored a run. Jeremy Mangiameli, who hit the ball hard in each of his three at-bats, Jayson Penney, Anthony Morro and Willett each collected a hit for Coginchaug.
The Rams will put their three-game winning streak on the line when they travel to Clinton on Wednesday for a 4 p.m. game against Morgan before hosting North Branford at 11 a.m. on Friday.
The road doesn’t get easier for Coginchaug as the Blue Devils travel to Cromwell for a 4 p.m. game on Wednesday, host East Hampton at 1 p.m. on Friday and Haddam-Killingworth at 4 p.m. next Monday.
Coginchaug…..000 000 0–0 4 4
Old Saybrook..000 221 x–5 5 2
Batteries: C–Willett, Bugai (6) and Covello; OS–Butler and Lane. WP: Butler; LP: Willett; 2B: OS–Scalzo; Records: Coginchaug 2-2, 2-1; Old Saybrook 3-0, 3-0.