By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
Following a rough and rocky first inning, Amity senior right-hander Sam Nepiarsky settled down and hurled his team to a 6-2 Southern Connecticut Conference inter-divisional victory over Jonathan Law Monday afternoon at chilly, damp Janenda Field in Woodbridge. With his 5-inning effort, Nepiarsky (who allowed 1 run on 4 hits, walked 4 and struck out 5) improved his record to 5-0.
Nepiarsky hit Law’s Tim Hunt with his first pitch of the afternoon, but he was soon erased trying to steal second base. Nepiarsky then walked both Jim Palmer and Josh Rouse. Kevin Johnson beat out an infield single to load the bases with 1 out. Dillon Rocha followed with a run-scoring single into left-center field. That left the bases still loaded with only 1 out, but Nepiarsky avoided further damage by firing a third strike past Rich Dow and retiring Drew DuRubeis on an inning-ending fly ball into center field.
“I can’t tell you what Sam’s problem was in the first inning because I don’t know,” Spartan Coach Sal Coppola said. “He was just off. Fortunately, we got out of that inning the way we did–giving up only 1 run. Our throwing out the Law runner trying to steal second base proved to be a big play as it prevented them from having a big first inning. After that, Sam settled down and pitched well after that.”
The bottom of the first inning was another rough and rocky time for the now 10-2 Spartans. They started out by rapping Johnson, the Golden Eagle starting (and losing) pitcher for consecutive base hits by Keith Klebart, Jake Russo, and Anthony Capozziello. Prior to Capozziello’s single, Klebart was gunned down trying to swipe third base. Johnson dodged a huge bullet and escaped unscathed by retiring both Mike Concato and Sebastian DeMauro on fly balls to right field.
“Klebart was over aggressive and our guy (Capozzello) missed a bunt. As a result, we ran ourselves out of the inning. We had 3 hits but didn’t score a run. It was a weird first inning.”
After being frustrated and turned away empty handed in the bottom of the first inning, Amity erupted for 4 runs in its’ next at bat. Johnson got himself into trouble by hitting Spartan lead-off batter Justin Ashworth with a pitch. He raced around to third on the first of Chris Cimino’s 3 hits and scored on Josh Sabitsky’s roller to second base. Chris Katz walked to load the base. Klebart doubled down the left field line to plate Ashworth and Cimino made it 4-1 when he scored on an infield out by Russo.
Amity added 2 mores scores and grabbed a 6-1 lead in the third inning. A pair of Law errors gave the Spartans an unearned run. After Cimino’s single, Sabitisky followed by lining a shot that skipped off third base and down the foul for an RBI double.
After Nepiarsky threw 5 innings, Coppola brought in Nick Russo to replace him in the top of the sixth. The right-handed junior sailed through at inning, but got himself into big trouble in the seventh inning. Pinch hitter Dave Pingarron led off with a base hit. Fusco then forced in a run when he handed out consecutive free passes to Palmer, Rouse, and Kurt Holden. With the bases still loaded, Rocha stepped into the batter’s box representing the potentially game-tying run. Coppola brought Max Ritchie in to replace Fusco and hopefully save the game. The lanky senior did just that as he got Rocha to knock the ball down the first base line. Ashworth alertly scooped up the ball and fired to home to retire Palmer on a fielder’s choice. Immediately thereafter, Dow banged into a game-ending, around the horn double play.
Coppola said, “That was Sam’s worst outing of the season. We weren’t great as a team today. It wasn’t our best game, but we still pulled out a win. Sam just didn’t have his good stuff today. Nick Fusco was wasn’t loose and was trying too hard in the top of the seventh inning. With the tying run at bat, I brought Max (Ritchie) in. He’s tough to hit because he’s so long and has a sneaky fastball. He also holds runners on base really well. Keith Klebart made a nice play to turn the double play that ended the game.”
He went on to insist that his Spartans played like they had the game under control after the second inning but never put it out of the Eagles’ reach.
“We came out swinging like crazy but then shut down the bats after the third inning. It could have been 8 or 9-1 if we kept swinging the bats after the third inning. I was disappointed that we let Law stick around,” he added. “On the other hand, I thought our defense played really well. Our outfielders had great games. They moved themselves around and positioned themselves really well. As a result, a lot of fly balls were hit right at them.”
Offensively, the 6-7 Golden Eagles were led by Palmer who singled, walked 3 times, scored a run and drove in another run. Led by Cimino (3 singles, a stolen base, and a run) and Klebart (a double, 2 singles, a run, and a RBI), Amity ended up with 6 runs on 10 hits.
The Black and Gold return to action on Wednesday with a 3:45 P.m. Housatonic Division visit to Sheehan High of Wallingford. In their first meeting, Concato held the Titans hitless into the sixth inning but ended up dropping a 2-1 decision. Coppola admitted that his team had to defeat Sheehan if it had any hopes to win, or at least share the Housy crown.