Waterford falls short in Class L baseball final
Middletown - Waterford High School had exactly what it wanted Sunday - ace Jordan Hamler on the mound and a chance to win the Class L state baseball title.
Hamler pitched a two-hitter with five strikeouts.
But crazy as it sounds, it wasn't good enough.
New Canaan senior Andrew Casali stifled Waterford. He pitched a one-hitter with seven strikeouts and two walks to pace the fourth-seeded Rams to their first CIAC title, a 3-0 win at Palmer Field.
"(Hamler) gave up two hits," Waterford coach Art Peluso said. "That's good enough to win a lot of baseball games. It just didn't happen for us today."
The No. 2 Lancers (23-5) were looking for their 10th CIAC state title. They've won more than any other program.
"We had a fantastic season for Waterford baseball," said Hamler, a Southern Connecticut State-bound senior. "None of us should hang our heads."
Peluso said, "They did everything we asked of them for three months, and they took us along for the ride. The kids take the adults along for the ride. The adults don't take the kids along for the ride."
New Canaan (21-5) lost to Fitch in last season's Class L final, 6-4.
"It was an hour-and-a-half bus ride of straight silence," Casali said. "Coming out here and being able to bring this one back to New Canaan just means the world to us. We're going to have fun with this one."
Casali had few struggles with the Lancers. He walked Hamler to start the Waterford second inning and walked Adam Goss with two outs, but struck out Sam Strout to get out of trouble.
"I only had to mix in a changeup one or two times," Casali said. "The whole fastball-curveball combination was working today. I was able to hit my spots and rely on what (catcher) Casey (Ouellette) was telling me to throw."
Seth Hoagland singled to start off the Waterford fourth. Hamler followed by grounding into a double play.
"(Casali) was pitching low, keeping it away from us, mixing it a little bit," Hamler said. "He did a hell of a job. ... I give them full credit. They deserved it. Good job, New Canaan."
Waterford was also undone by mistakes. Hamler hit Casali with an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the top of the first inning. Brian Moran worked the count to 3-2, then hit an RBI double to give New Canaan a 1-0 lead.
Henry Lavieri, the Rams' number seven hitter, doubled with one out in the second. Hamler hit Alex LaPolice with a pitch and walked Grady Amrhein to load the bases.
Ouellette hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Lavieri before Hamler struck out Matt Toth to end the inning.
"I just left it up a couple of times," Hamler said. "They put a good bat on the ball. Walks killed me. Hitting those batters killed me. (I) just came up short this time."
LaPolice walked with two outs in the top of the fourth and stole second.
Amrhein hit a fly ball and Waterford centerfielder Will Sherman called for it.
Hoagland, the leftfielder, closed in on Sherman and also called for it. Sherman deferred to Hoagland, who had the ball pop out of his glove to score LaPolice.
"Will called for the ball, and for some reason, I said, 'me', also at the same time," Hoagland said. "It was all on me. I shouldn't have said that."
"You build on this," Peluso smiled. "Last year, we got to the quarterfinals. This year we got through the quarterfinals, (and) we ended up in the state championship game. Maybe next year we can take it one step further, but it's a process.
"Sometimes the process isn't how you want it to end."
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