Pictured: Emma Bayor of Old Lyme, one of the state’s top softball pitchers, is committed to Marist College.

By Paul Augeri
middlesexcountysports@gmail.com

We’ve already reached the midpoint of the high school spring sports season and the calendar has yet to hit May. The spring season always plays as the most compact and seemingly the quickest of the three.

On the baseball side, Portland came up with an important win, its fourth in 10 games, 7-5 over Old Saybrook on Saturday. The Highlanders ended a 5-game losing streak, and one has to think it will do wonders for their morale. I  mean, less than 24 hours earlier, Old Saybrook took down unbeaten North Branford.

Coach Rick Borg’s club overcame a 5-3 deficit with two runs in the fifth and two in the sixth, and Gerry Hall picked up the victory with 2 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit relief.

Ryan LaPila had a nice day at the plate for Portland — 3 for 4 with two doubles, an RBI and three runs scored. Josh Hanna tripled and scored twice from the cleanup spot. Hanna deserves First Team All-Shoreline consideration. LaPila is a good veteran player as well.

Portland has four games this week and needs to start picking off opponents if it wants to qualify for the postseason in Class S. The Highlanders start with Hale-Ray on Monday and meet Old Saybrook again Wednesday, this time on the shore. Friday offers winless Coginchaug and Saturday, a home game against North Branford.

UConn commit Connor Lane had another fantastic day at the plate for Old Saybrook. He was 3 for 3, including his third home run of the season, and drove in four runs. Charlie Carmichael was 4 for 4 out of the leadoff spot with three runs scored. Auggie Albert and Ed Devaney had two hits each.

At 3-8, the Rams have a tougher go of seeing the postseason. It’d be a shame not to see seniors Lane, Devaney and Nick Denovellis play beyond the regular season one last time.

Teams need to finish with a winning percentage above .400 to make their state tournaments.

Challenging 4-game week for H-K

As we start to consider the Shoreline tournament field taking shape, coach Mark Brookes’ 9-2 Cougars have one heck of a week ahead of them. To summarize:

*Monday: Home vs. surgent Cromwell. The Panthers have played their way back into the postseason picture with a 5-game winning streak following an 0-5 start (the streak ended Saturday with a 9-3 out-of-league loss to Somers).

*Tuesday: Home vs. Old Saybrook. Despite their record, the Rams cannot be overlooked. Not with an all-around player like catcher Lane — my pick to repeat as Shoreline Player of the Year.

*Wednesday: At North Branford. The Thunderbirds dealt the Cougars their only league loss to date, 3-1 on April 13.

*Saturday: At Morgan. The Huskies (9-4) have asserted themselves in the race for the Shoreline championship. Coach Trevor Brown’s crew, after two losses to open the season, have since won nine straight against Shoreline opponents.

The Huskies also mixed it up with top teams outside the league and played tough in a 10-7 loss to Guilford and 4-2 loss to Staples in Westport.

Knowing Brookes and his teams and their opponents, we should see some really good pitching and defense across the week. Runs could be at a premium.

Cromwell also plays the CIAC-allowed max of four times. Following H-K, it’s East Hampton on the road Wednesday, Valley Regional/Westbrook at home Friday and Hale-Ray on Saturday morning in Moodus.

After North Branford (8-1 overall), H-K and Morgan, it will be interesting to see who among the middle of the pack asserts itself out of East Hampton, Cromwell, Old Lyme, Valley/Westbrook and Portland.

Middletown’s season on the line

The 4-6 Blue Dragons’ next four games will tell us a lot. Their opponents are 6-3 Avon, 7-2 South Windsor, Bristol Eastern (3-7) and 6-3 Bristol Central. Eastern isn’t a gimme either — Middletown’s offense was shut down by the Lancers in a 5-1 loss last week.

This and that

**The softball showdown of the season in the Shoreline is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Old Lyme, where the Wildcats’ Emma Bayor and North Branford’s Kiley Mullins will match pitches and wits. Both teams are unbeaten in Shoreline games and both Bayor and Mullins have won 1-0 games. This is the teams’ only regular season meeting. Bayor is committed to Marist. Mullins is committed to the University of Scranton.

**When Sal Morello was hired earlier this month to coach Cromwell/Portland, he went out of his way to praise the job Josh Rosek is doing at Middletown. Rosek replaced Morello after the 2022 season. Morello worked with the Blue Dragons linemen in 2023.

“I love what Josh is doing at Middletown,” he said. “The kids are great. They’re bought in. The culture is strong and I was enjoying coaching the offensive linemen. Cromwell was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

**Cromwell’s Jess Elfreich flashed some serious speed in center field against Portland on Wednesday when he chased down a drive in the gap to prevent a run-scoring hit. As the returning quarterback for the Panthers this fall, how often will he run it?

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