Pictured: Cromwell relief pitcher Connor Slifer (center) is greeted by catcher Zach Zajac and first baseman Sam Stergos after getting the final out in an 8-3 win over Old Saybrook. (Photo by Paul Augeri)
By Paul Augeri
CROMWELL – Cromwell right fielder Colby Dimenna spent much of his freshman baseball season on the junior varsity until a late call-up to the Big Team, where he got into the lineup in right field and in the No. 9 spot in the batting order.
This season, the small but fearless sophomore is a regular part of the lineup, mostly from the leadoff spot. He was in that role again Wednesday and turned in a rock star-type performance against undefeated Old Saybrook.
After striking out in his first at-bat and slinking off to the dugout, Dimenna singled three times, scored three runs and drove in two as the main offensive catalyst in Cromwell’s 8-3 Shoreline Conference win over the Rams at Fran Monnes Field.
At the plate, there were several teammates who also factored into the Panthers’ fourth straight victory, but the hour belonged to Dimenna following a 1-for-20 season-opening slump.
“My first at-bat I took three straight strikes. I looked at them all,” he said. “it was good to finally get hits and score. I’ve never really hit in the leadoff spot before this.”
“Everyone on this team can hit,” Dimenna added. “One through nine.”
And it showed. Tysen Billings drove in three runs out of the No. 5 spot, cleanup hitter Zach Zajac singled, doubled and had two RBIs, and Cromwell (6-2) also received production from Sam Stergos and Ethan UCol from the Nos. 8 and 9 spots. The two combined for three runs.
“We finally started stepping up and getting the big hit that we lacked in those two games against Valley and Sheehan (Cromwell’s only two losses),” coach Christian Budzik said. “And it’s good to see it coming from both ends of the order. When everyone produces and puts the ball in play, we can be OK.”
Old Saybrook (6-1) scored a run in its first at-bat via a Cromwell error and took a 2-0 lead in the third on a scorching double down the left-field line by Jake Butler. The Rams had runners on second and third with two out, but Cromwell starter Brandon Berean struck out Noah Grace to end the inning and keep the Panthers at a manageable deficit.
Cromwell’s offense broke through against Grace, the Rams’ starter, with three runs in its half of the third. Stergos led off with a walk. Pinch runner Jared Semper moved up on a perfectly executed bunt up the first-base line by Ethan UCol, who beat it out for a hit, and with third base uncovered, Semper took it.
Dimenna, facing an 0-2 count, shortened up his swing and dropped a flare into short center to score Semper.
“He had an RBI single against SMSA in the state tournament and really never left the lineup after that,” Budzik said.
After Ian McMillan flied out to left and Elias DeLeon walked, Zajac laced a first-pitch single to left to drive in UCol and Billings’ blooper to right-center scored DeLeon for a 3-2 Cromwell lead.
Old Saybrook tied the score in its next at-bat. Auggie Albert, who reached on a two-base error to start the fourth, scored on a two-out wild pitch by Berean. Berean struck out Nick Rothman, the final batter he faced Wednesday, to end the inning.
The Panthers scored twice in their half of the fourth. Dimenna knocked in Stergos with a one-out, line single to right on the first offering from Grace, and Billings drove in Dimenna. The Panthers left the bases loaded when Antonio Iozzo hit into a fielder’s choice.
“Typically I like to swing at the first pitch unless I’m starting the inning,” said Dimenna. “We hit a lot better this game than we did at the beginning of the season. Everyone can hit, one through nine.”
Old Saybrook appeared poised for a rally in the fifth when Hester doubled to deep center off reliever Connor Slifer and took third on a balk. But Slifer struck out Connor Lane on a 2-2 fastball, forced Nick Scalzo to ground to short against a drawn-in infield, and got Butler looking at strike three.
The Panthers scored three insurance runs in the sixth. Dimenna, who produced his third hit to start the inning, scored on Zajac’s fly to deep center that was misplayed into a double. DeLeon, who had walked, scored on Billings’ squeeze bunt and pinch hitter Nick Soignoli’s double drove home Zajac with the final run.
“Billings has been fantastic,” said Budzik. “He didn’t have the best season individually last year and was a little banged up. He came back, he got stronger, he’s a great kid to have on the team and all the younger kids look up to him and they listen to him when he says things. He’s been great.”
Berean allowed four hits and one unearned run in his four innings of work, walking none and striking out six. Slifer yielded two hits in three scoreless innings, with one walk and four strikeouts.
“Brandon did well,” Budzik said. “He probably gave up one more (run) than he should have, but when he can locate his curveball for strikes he’s tough. If he can’t throw that it makes him a little one-dimensional, but when he’s got it, he’s got as good a curveball as anyone.”
Rothman and Hester had two hits apiece for the Rams. Grace allowed seven runs, all earned, and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking four and striking out seven.
The Rams had another tough time in the field, making four errors among some mental lapses.
“All the credit goes to Cromwell,” Old Saybrook coach Ryan Fraser said. “They came in ready, had a good environment here and they punched us in the mouth. Defensively we struggled today. It was a tough day at the ballpark, but now it’s about how we respond to it and just making sure we don’t get too low based on one loss, and making sure that we’re ready for East Hampton (on Friday).”
In other baseball action Wednesday, Valley Regional (5-1) beat Old Lyme 16-1; North Branford defeated Hale-Ray 10-1.
Coginchaug 9, Morgan 3: Coginchaug scored 5 runs in the third inning, snapping a 2-2 tie, as the Blue Devils (5-3) won their third in a row. Anthony Morro had 2 of Coginchaug’s 5 hits and Ethan Covello drove in 2 runs. Jayson Penney and Connor Willett pitched 3 innings apiece for the Blue Devils. Morgan (2-8), which made 4 errors, had 4 hits. Ethan Reemsnyder and Brady Fritz had an RBI each. Garret Garbinski struck out 7.
Haddam-Killingworth 14, Westbrook 0 (5): H-K scored 8 runs in the first inning and Callen Powers pitched a 1-hit shutout for his second win of the season. Todd Butler, Ryan Erskine and Lucas Kamoen each had 2 hits for the Cougars (5-3). Westbrook fell to 0-8.
Old Lyme 10, Valley Regional 7: Victoria Gage came through with the big hit — a bases-clearing double on a 2-strike pitch with 2 out in the fifth — to give the Wildcats the lead for good. Old Lyme improved to 6-2 as Gage went 4 innings for the win (5 runs allowed, 3 earned, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts). Emma Bayor struck out 5 in the final 3 innings for the save. Old Lyme leadoff hitter Ava Roth was 4 for 5 with 3 runs scored, Gage had 2 hits to go with her 3 RBIs, Jenna Schauder and Maddie Hubbard had 3 hits apiece and Lauren Creagan (2 RBIs) and Grace Phaneuf (2 runs scored) were 2 for 4.
Shelton 168, Xavier 183
At Highland Golf Club, Shelton
Medalist: Vinny DeFao, Shelton, 37
Xavier Scorers: Gavin Coletti 41, John Carrozzella 45, Brady Pill 47, Finn Russell 50
Shelton Scorers: Vinny DeFao 37, Tyler Pearson 39, Cam St. Pierre 42, Nathan Eckert 50
Records: Xavier 3-1; Shelton 3-0.
Portland 161, East Catholic 177
At Portland Golf Course (par 35)
Medalists: Luke Stennett and Quinn Lapinski, Portland, 37
Portland scorers: Joe LaMalfa 40, Eli Evison 47, Gio Discenza 50
East Catholic scorers: Shane Luca 42, Adam Eskin 44, Kevin Kolodziejczyk 43, Ben Pagan 48, Noah Carlson 50
Tuesday: Xavier 173, Amity 174
At Portland Golf Course
Medalists: Brett Chodos and Ethan McDaniel, Amity, 40
Xavier Scorers: Finn Russell 42, John Thompson 42, John Carrozzella 44, Brady Pill 45
Amity Scorers: Brett Chodos 40, Ethan McDaniel 40, Dante Hardt 47, Corey Donovan 47
Records: Xavier 3-0; Amity 1-1.
Westbrook 4, Morgan 3
Joseph Morse (M) def. Joey Caslin (W) 6-2, 6-2
Elliot Koplas (W) def. Steve Kinser (M) 6-0, 6-0
Jonah Freund (W) def. Matt Lopez (M) 6-4, 6-0
Josh Davey (W) def. Tarik Hasic (M) 7-6, 6-3.
Mason Malchiadi and Ryan Engels (W) def. Damian Sevieri and Nate Kinser (M) 6-0, 6-2
Ryan Mansfield and Page Guptill (M) def. Enzo Adorno and Jon Freund (W) 2-6, 6-2, 6-0
Erik Barrera and Ryan Gray (M) def. Dev Patel and Justin Tapia (W) 6-4, 6-2.
Old Saybrook 3, Coginchaug 0
Logan Medbury def. Zach Reyes 6-2, 6-3
Victor Fuda def. Luke Charest 6-0, 6-0
Daniel Steindl def. Will Fournier 6-7 (7-5), 6-0, 6-1
Zach Nichols and Joe maselli (OS) def. Nick Piscatelli and Cole Wright 6-0, 6-1