Orange Live Sports Writer
Last year the Orange Post 127 Junior American Legion baseball team advanced to the state Finals before bowing to Waterford . This year was a totally different story. Seeded 10th, the Orangemen were paired against 23rd seeded Guilford Post 48. Despite its lower seed and having to play on the road, Guilford upset Post 127 1-0 Saturday afternoon under gray, threatening skies at Brinley Field. With the victory, Guilford , which is now 13-9, visits (TBA) seeded Montville on Sunday afternoon. Following its unexpected 1-and-done tourney exit, Orange wraps up its season with a 20-6 record.
While acknowledging it is difficult to win any game getting only 2 hits, losing Coach Rocco DeMaio said, “We hit the ball well all season and consistently put it into play, but today, their pitcher (Ford Linnell) was pretty good. We didn’t get key hits when we needed them. Our biggest problem today was our defense. We made a lot of mistakes. When you have 2 good pitchers like we had today, you have to keep things clean defensively and we just didn’t do that.”
The winners had runners on base and in scoring position in each of the first 4 innings. In both the second and fourth innings, Guilford stranded pairs of runners. After 5 scoreless innings, the visitors finally broke the ice. T.J. Williams reached base on an error by Orange shortstop Mike Appel. It was 1 of 3 bobbles recorded by Post 127. After stealing second base and moving over to third base on Alex Potoscny’s long fly ball to right field, Russell raced home on a perfectly executed suicide squeeze bunt from Ricky Williams. Despite having the ball up in his eyes, he reached up and dropped the ball between the pitcher’s mound and first base. The base runner had such a large jump, he nearly scored without the bunt even being made.
Orange had also had its chances to score but left runners in 5 of the 7 innings. In the fifth inning, Tim Brown walked with 1 out and then raced around to third base on a wild throw by Post 48 third baseman Christian Triebar. He scooped up Zach Champerlain’s sacrifice bunt and then airmailed far beyond the reach of first baseman J.P. Barrett. With 1 out, Max Hurwitz ripped a line drive that was speared by Barrett. He threw across the diamond to nail Brown, trying in vain to get back to third base.
With 1 out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Christian Luciani reached base on a fielding miscue by Guilford shortstop P.J. Ciocco. He quickly swiped second base but was erased when he tried to reach third base on a 1-hopper speared by Triebar, the Post 48 third baseman. Straying too far off second base, Luciani was caught in a run down and soon erased.
While he was tagged with the loss that lowered his record to 6-2, Post `127 hurled Mark Kehlenback hurled a complete game, allowing no earned runs on only 4 hits. He also struck out 9 batters and walked only1.
Now 5-1, Linnell hurled a complete game 2-hit shutout, walking 2 and whiffing 3.
According to DeMaio, “Mark pitched really well today. He’s a touch pitcher who throws very hard. He can be overpowering and usually gets a lot of strike outs. In our last game, he struck out 16 batters, but today, we made too many mistakes behind him.”
He added, “We didn’t lose many games this summer, but in the ones we did lose, we were hurt by our own mistakes. I know we had a strong team, and if we had executed plays, we should have won.”
DeMaio refused to blame the loss on the absence of starting shortstop Matt Ronai and catcher Matt Fox, who were promoted recently to the senior Post 127 team roster.
DeMaio added, “Yes, those were 2 huge losses. We were missing 2 big bats from our line-up, but with our depth, we still have a strong team without them.”