Waterford beats Fitch 5-2 in ECC baseball championship

Sophomore Justin Pandolfe, didn't start a varsity game until late in the season, pitched a complete game as second-seeded Waterford won its first Eastern Connecticut Conference baseball tournament championship since 2005 with a 5-2 win over No. 4 Fitch on Friday night at Dodd Stadium.
Sophomore Justin Pandolfe, didn't start a varsity game until late in the season, pitched a complete game as second-seeded Waterford won its first Eastern Connecticut Conference baseball tournament championship since 2005 with a 5-2 win over No. 4 Fitch on Friday night at Dodd Stadium. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Norwich — Scenes from winning a league championship Friday night:

Jordan Hamler, senior at Waterford High School, kissed the championship plaque.

Art Peluso, the Waterford coach, shivered, the victim of a water bucket bath amid the 50-degree temperature and wind.

And then there was Justin Pandolfe, the winning pitcher, the calm little left-hander whose emotions still hadn't wavered much, even after the Lancers celebrated the 5-2 victory over Fitch at Dodd Stadium and the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament title.

"I had 100 percent confidence in J.P.," Hamler said. "He is the man. It's his time right now."

Pandolfe, a sophomore, made his first career start earlier this week at Dodd Stadium.

"The moment doesn't really get to him," Peluso said.

If anything, Pandolfe gets to the moment. Like the two different times he picked Fitch runners off second base.

"My shortstop, Jesse Coates, just flashed a signal," Pandolfe said, alluding to pickoffs in first and fifth innings, killing potential Fitch rallies. "I just went with the play and did it fast."

Pandolfe pitched a complete game with three strikeouts.

"That kid threw well," Fitch coach Marc Peluso said. "Threw strikes. He won the championship."

Waterford scored four times in the third inning, highlighted by Seth Hoagland's RBI single and Kyle Willoughby's two-run triple to deep right. Hamler drove in a run an inning later with an infield single.

This was Waterford's first ECC tournament title since 2005.

"I'm happy for the kids, especially the seniors," Art Peluso said. "The adults just go along for the ride. I appreciate how much effort and time they've put in. We play hard. This is our 23rd game. We've played hard all 23. We didn't necessarily play well, but we've played hard."

This was also the third time this season that Waterford defeated Fitch, giving Art Peluso a 3-0 advantage over his brother.

Marc Peluso, however, coached the Falcons to the Class L title last season.

"It sucks losing, simple as that. And watching that go on?" Marc Peluso said, alluding to Waterford's championship celebration. "You can't be happy from our standpoint. It's great for him that he has an ECC championship. He works hard and tries to do things the right way. It's tremendous for him. But if you think I'm pleased about it … no."

David Porter was the losing pitcher for Fitch, victimized by two errors in the four-run fourth.

"The big thing for David was to make sure he got his work in before the state tournament," Marc Peluso said.

"We didn't really support him well defensively or offensively until last couple innings."

m.dimauro@theday.com

Waterford's Kyle Willoughby, right, is congratulated by teammates after driving in two runs with a triple in the third inning and scoring a third run moments later during Friday night's ECC tournament championship game at Dodd Stadium. The second-seeded Lancers beat No. 4 Fitch 5-2, their third win over the Falcons this season.
Waterford's Kyle Willoughby, right, is congratulated by teammates after driving in two runs with a triple in the third inning and scoring a third run moments later during Friday night's ECC tournament championship game at Dodd Stadium. The second-seeded Lancers beat No. 4 Fitch 5-2, their third win over the Falcons this season. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
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