Fitch advances to Class L baseball semis

Jonathan Law catcher Dillon Rocha loses his glove after interfering with Fitch's Zach Wolfgang during the fourth inning of Saturday's Class L baseball quarterfinal game in Groton. The interference call came with the bases loaded, broke a 1-1 tie and the third-seeded Falcons went on to win, 3-1. Fitch will play either New London or RHAM in the semifinals on Tuesday.

Groton - The fact the Fitch High School baseball team played Saturday, one of only three games played in the state amidst the warnings of day-long inclement weather, was half the story.

"We knew right away when we woke up, we were playing no matter what," senior pitcher Shawn Nadeau said. "If you think, 'We're not playing,' you're going to come and not be ready to play."

It was partly due to logistics that third-seeded Fitch played the game, a 3-1 victory over No. 27 Jonathan Law in the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament. The Falcons' field - despite a bank of fog which settled over it Saturday and didn't budge, making it tough to see the outfielders from behind home plate - is in exceptional shape and holds water well.

It was partly gamesmanship. Fitch's starter was fresh and Law's was coming back on three days rest, Falcons coach Marc Peluso said. This way, Fitch's pitching rotation is set for the coming week.

Third, it was partly attributable to how anxious Fitch was to play. And win.

The Falcons (22-4) will play in the semifinals on Tuesday against the winner of today's game between No. 2 RHAM of Hebron and No. 23 New London. It is Fitch's first semifinal berth in Peluso's five seasons and the program's first semifinal since the Falcons won the Class LL state championship in 2005.

"It's the most exciting time of year. You're checking the CIAC website to see what games are being played. You're checking the weather. It's like you're kids again," Peluso said.

"... This is awesome. It's a testament to this group of guys. We had 10 players most of the season. You'd look in the dugout and there'd be one guy if there wasn't somebody out chasing foul balls. And they got us to 22-4 at this point."

Nadeau, a left-hander, pitched a complete game two-hitter against Law (12-11), allowing an RBI single to Rich Dow in the second inning but getting out of a bases-loaded jam with only one run.

Second baseman Jon Mewha started a double play to end the fourth inning and beginning with that batter Nadeau retired eight straight and 10 of the last 11. Nadeau struck out four, walked three and hit two batters.

"It feels good, but we didn't expect anything less," said Nadeau, one of nine seniors. "We meshed together as a team this year. Definitely, I know my team has my back; I can pitch to contact and they make the plays."

Fitch, meanwhile, only had two hits off Law right-hander Matt Ferraiolo, who was coming off a 1-0 victory over defending Class L champ Notre Dame of West Haven in the first round on Tuesday.

Trailing 1-0 with two outs in the fourth inning, Fitch loaded the bases on walks to David Hall and Al Jordan Johnson and a hit batter, Ollie Auerbach.

Fitch scored the tying run when the next batter, Zach Wolfgang, swung at a 1-2 pitch from Ferraiolo and was awarded first base on a catcher's interference call, knocking the glove off catcher Dillon Rocha. That scored Hall.

Jordan Johnson then scored on a passed ball to make it 2-1, and Auerbach and Wolfgang advanced. That brought Mewha to the plate and he promptly responded with an RBI single to right field, scoring Auerbach for the 3-1 lead. Wolfgang was thrown out on the ensuing play at the plate.

"I was telling Wolf (assistant coach Jay Wolfradt), you don't see that inning every day," Peluso said.

"... I told Jon before that at-bat, 'Anything straight and below your hands, hit it to right field. The first pitch was straight and a little above his hands and he fouled it off. But he got it done."

Other than that inning, Fitch only had one baserunner on a first-inning single by Aaron Hill.

Said Peluso of Tuesday's semifinal: "It's not going to be easy, but you want to play as late into June as possible. We're working toward that."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

Fitch pitcher Shawn Nadeau fires a pitch during Saturday's CIAC Class L baseball tournament quarterfinal game against Jonathan Law in Groton. Nadeau pitched a two-hitter as the Falcons beat Law 3-1 and advanced to Tuesday's state semifinals against either New London or RHAM.
Fitch pitcher Shawn Nadeau fires a pitch during Saturday's CIAC Class L baseball tournament quarterfinal game against Jonathan Law in Groton. Nadeau pitched a two-hitter as the Falcons beat Law 3-1 and advanced to Tuesday's state semifinals against either New London or RHAM.
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