Pictured: Cromwell reliever Connor Slifer (center) and the Panthers bring it in after getting a double-play ball to end the sixth inning. The Panthers scored three runs in the seventh in pulling away for a 6-1 win at Coginchaug. (Photo by Paul Augeri)
By Paul Augeri
DURHAM — Cromwell lost 9 of its previous 10 games entering Monday’s Shoreline Conference tournament, but the Panthers looked like a team to be reckoned with after posting a 6-1 win over No. 3 Coginchaug at Helmuth Brown Field.
Tysen Billings produced Cromwell’s biggest hit of the game — a two-out, two-run double on a 3-2 pitch from Coginchaug ace Conner Willett in the fifth inning. The liner to left snapped a 1-1 tie, and two innings later Cromwell tacked on three more runs off of Willett to seal the outcome.
“His hit was huge,” Cromwell coach Christian Budzik said. “We’ve been looking for that for like three to four weeks now — someone to get a two-out hit to break it open. I’m happy it was Tysen. I think he was kind of ready for a fastball and turned it around.”
Cromwell right-handers Zach Zajac and Connor Slifer combined on a five-hitter. Zajac was dominant in big spots over the first four innings, striking out seven, before handing off to Slifer. The sophomore retired Coginchaug in order in the fifth, induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth and bounced off the mound after a 1-2-3 seventh.
Zajac allowed a run on four hits, while Slifer gave up just an infield single to Jayson Penney and fanned two.
The Panthers padded their lead in the seventh behind Nick Soignoli’s run-scoring single. Colby Dimenna, who led the Panthers with three hits and two RBIs, followed with an RBI hit to left. The sixth run came in on an outfield error on the same play.
Dimenna, normally the team’s leadoff hitter, worked his magic from the seventh spot in the order Monday.
“He was kind of more aggressive, too,” Budzik said. “Hitting at the top, he felt like he had to look at some pitches. Today he went out and was free and easy. He’s a sophomore and a good hitter who is capable of performing like that.”
Cromwell (9-12) will meet No. 2 seed Old Saybrook in the semifinals Tuesday.
“I just told the guys we had to go 1-0 today, and now we have to go 1-0 tomorrow,” Budzik said. “Forget about everything else. We’ve got the ticket, we’re in the tournaments, anything can happen.”
Willett struck out seven in seven innings while allowing 10 hits as Coginchaug (14-7), the 2021 Class S champion, will begin defense of its title next week as a top 10 seed.
The Shoreline scoreboard on Monday:
No. 1 Valley Regional 15, East Hampton 1
No. 2 Old Saybrook 10, No. 7 Old Lyme 1
No. 5 North Branford 6, No. 4 Haddam-Killingworth 5
No. 6 Cromwell 6, No. 3 Coginchaug 1
North Branford at Valley Regional, 4pm
Cromwell at Old Saybrook, 4pm
Friday at Palmer Field, 7pm
Old Saybrook 10, Old Lyme 1: Senior Jake Butler had himself a day, pitching 5-hit ball in a complete-game victory while going 4 for 4 at the plate with 2 triples and 3 RBIs. Rams coach Ryan Fraser said Butler “deserved this one.”
“We have said as a coaching staff that Jake had hit into some of the worst luck I’ve ever seen during the regular season. We started to make jokes about it at one point because he was unlucky with every swing,” Fraser said. “But Jake’s confidence never wavered despite the ups and downs this season. He’s a kid that I love to coach and a competitor that wants the ball or at-bat in the biggest moment.”
Butler allowed a run in the second, walked 2 and struck out 3. He also scored 3 runs and had 8 total bases.
Nick Rothman was 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs and a run scored as Old Saybrook totaled 10 hits. Ed Devaney drove in 2 runs and scored 1, while Nick Scalzo went 2 for 3 with a double, run and RBI.
Old Saybrook trailed 1-0 before scoring 4 runs in the fourth inning, 1 in the fifth and 5 in the sixth to win going away.
Owen Snurkowski had an RBI triple for the Wildcats (10-11). David Evers, Alex Roth, James Creagan and Jack Porter had one hit each.
MORE TO COME …