In the words of skipper Travis LaPointe, it started as, “a season of the unknown” with only one varsity returning starter, but now the one fact is that the Hand baseball squad will return to both the SCC and state tournaments as SCC Hammonasset Division Champions for the first time since 1998.
By virtue of its 4-3 win over Foran on May 6, Hand not only clinched its first division crown in 15 years, but also earned a berth in the Class L State Tournament.
“This has been an awesome team effort,” said the second-year head coach, whose club is now 8-7 with a 4-3 divisional mark. “Everyone on the roster is pulling for each other and has positive energy at practices and on game days. We are all enjoying being around each other and trying not to worry too much about wins and losses. This has allowed everyone to relax and just enjoy playing baseball.”
Against the Lions, Reed Smith pitched a complete game with seven strikeouts and improved his record to 3-0. Foran scored in the top of the first inning on a sacrifice fly, yet Hand stormed back and scored three in the bottom of the frame thanks to Adam Nuzzo hitting a double and then scoring when Scott Braren hit an RBI two-bagger. The third Tigers’ tally came after Ben Bednarczyk walked and Kyle Anderson drove a curve ball right up the middle for a two-run single.
In the bottom of the fourth, Hand scored on a double steal to take a 4-1 lead. Foran scored two runs in the top of the fifth, but it stranded runners on second and third with one out in the frame, as Smith pitched under the pressure. In the top of the seventh, the Lions got a runner to third with two outs, but Bobby Lanza made a strong play to end the game and clinch the crown.
The monumental win was the perfect rebound for the Tigers following a rough 14-1 loss at Cheshire on May 4. Smith had a double and a run scored versus the Rams, plus Braren had a sacrifice fly in the first to score the lone run. Hand jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but Cheshire scored eight runs in the bottom of the frame, and the Tigers were never able to get back in the game.