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Groton - The losses for the Waterford High School baseball team this season have been for the most part, according to coach Art Peluso, "letdown games."
"That happens," Peluso said. "We have a young group. A lot of our losses have come after good wins. It's part of playing, not having a letdown. We've had three letdown games."
Playing under the lights for a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division title, however, and with Lancers' ace Jordan Hamler on the mound, was cause for the electricity to be pulsing through the team Wednesday night.
Waterford scored an unearned run in the first inning and unloaded two three-run home runs to beat first-place Fitch 9-2 and claim a share of the title. The Lancers are 14-4 overall, 8-2 in the Large Division, including a season sweep of Fitch (16-4, 8-2).
It was after Waterford's last game against Fitch on April 29, a 4-0 victory to pull the Lancers into a tie for first, that Waterford promptly lost its next game to Norwich Free Academy 4-2. That put Fitch back in the driver's seat.
The Falcons conceded the lead early against Waterford on Wednesday though, when pitcher Izzy Davila walked leadoff hitter Will Sherman and then had an errant pickoff throw get by first baseman Cory Hurt to allow Sherman to reach second. Sherman stole third and later scored on a groundout by Seth Hoagland.
Waterford didn't get a hit off Davila until the fourth inning, but when they did it was big. After walks to Hoagland and Hamler to lead off the inning, sophomore third baseman Connor Lewis smashed a home run ball that reached the edge of the tennis courts beyond the left field fence. Jesse Coates added an RBI single in the inning to make it 5-0. Hamler, meanwhile, scattered six hits, struck out five, walked one and hit a batter. He also added the final blow for Waterford, another three-run homer in the seventh, this one off reliever David Porter.
"Connor's home run was a big boost for us. That took the breath out of them I guess," Hamler said. "I was happy to hit mine because it's my dad (Gregg's) birthday.
"... We weren't nervous. We just came out to play, just playing the game of baseball and being blessed. Plus, this was like our only night game. We didn't worry about the losses; once we're done with a game, we move on to the next one. We knew Fitch is a great team."
Fitch coach Marc Peluso, Art's brother, admitted to being disappointed to share the title.
"Absolutely. Why not be greedy? I know my brother would be greedy," Marc Peluso said. "... Someday, we're going to figure out how to beat Waterford consistently. We are just not there. We had (Hamler) on the ropes a couple times and we let him off the hook. I still like who we are but we need to get over that hump. We're almost there."
Fitch was playing without No. 3 hitter Pete Aldrich, who suffered an elbow injury while pitching earlier in the week. Tristan Hurley and Justin Wallace had two hits each for the Falcons, who scored in the fourth on a groundout by Cooper Robinson and in the sixth on a groundout by David Oko.
Adam Goss had two hits for Waterford, while Hoagland and Hamler each scored two runs.
"They're a confident group. They do all the right things," Art Peluso said of the Lancers. "I never have to worry about them doing anything to embarrass the program, the school, their parents, themselves. I have high expectations for them and I'm trying to tell them that's a good thing."