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Groton - During his Stonington High School days, Doug Domnarski admired the UConn-Avery Point baseball program.
So, when he graduated last spring, Domnarski decided to continue his playing career and education at Avery Point, just a short drive from his home in Pawcatuck.
"I love coach (Roger) Bidwell," Domnarski said. "I love what he does with the program. And it's close to home."
It's been a perfect marriage so far.
Bidwell has helped bring out the best in Domnarski, a left-handed pitcher with a spotless 7-0 record and sparkling 1.10 earned run average prior to Sunday's doubleheader against the Community College of Rhode Island at Washington Park.
"He throws strikes and has a good curveball to go with it," Bidwell said. "And he throws hard enough to keep them off balance. I knew he would be a good pitcher. I would be surprised if he wasn't.
"There's nothing bad to say about him. He does a lot of good things - works hard, pays attention. He's left-handed, that doesn't hurt."
Domnarski, a Class M all-state selection as a high school senior, didn't have his best stuff against CCRI (19-8) Sunday in the second game of the doubleheader. He failed to possess his usual fastball command while suffering his first loss in a 7-5 decision.
"I didn't have my 'A' stuff," Domnarski said. "It was just one of those days. They're a very good hitting team. They're aggressive."
The loss came on the heels of Avery Point's 12-4 win in game one and set up an important final regular season meeting at 4 p.m. today in Groton. Today's winner will earn the right to host the Region 21 best-of-three championship series starting on Friday when the two long-time rivals will meet again.
Domnarski will get a chance to pitch against the Knights for third this season. He's 1-1 in two starts, allowing two runs in a 12-2 win on April 5 before giving up six runs on Sunday.
At the start, Domnarski fell behind hitters early and a potent-hitting CCRI lineup took advantage. Stephen Adams started a four-run second inning with an RBI single and Casey Mack belted a three-run home.
Two-out trouble hurt Domnarski in the third as Austin Barry doubled and came home an Adams' single for a 5-1 edge. Two wild pitches in the fifth helped CCRI push across another run in the fifth.
Domnarski's day was finished after a scoreless sixth. He allowed eight hits while striking out three and walking one. He also hit a batter.
"He just wasn't as sharp with his command," Bidwell said. "I think that's the key to the whole thing."
It wasn't a typical start for Domnarski, who had allowed just 26 hits in 41 innings prior to Sunday's start, striking out 46 and walking just six.
"The beginning of the season my fastball command was really good," Domnarski said. "I threw an inside fastball inside to right-handers pretty well. But, lately, I've been missing a lot."
Avery Point hit the ball hard several times against starter Paul Watson (4-0) without anything to show for it. CCRI's outfielders played deep and cut off some potential extra base hits.
Sophomores Chris Mayhew and Garrett DeLotto each slugged a solo home run for the Pointers. In the sixth, Matt Greene of New London hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Nick Perrelli (double) and Diondrey Sapp had an RBI single to cut the deficit to 6-5.
But CCRI held on.
"They have a good lineup," Bidwell said. "They're a tough team to beat."
In game one, Avery Point provided plenty of run support for sophomore Zach Albin (5-2), who allowed five hits and four runs in five innings while striking out four and walking three.
Mayhew had a big day, going 4-for-4 with two doubles, three runs scored and three RBI. Greene added a single, double and two RBI while Alex Miller had two hits and two RBI and Kyle Hart had a solo home run.
Sophomore Andrew Reel (3-2, 2.84) will pitch today for Avery Point (34-7).
"It's always good baseball when we play them," Domnarski said. "We've just got to come out and play our best."