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Waterford - The Waterford High School baseball team has been, how would one say, a bit "run-challenged" this spring.
Oh, the Lancers have scored in bunches against struggling teams, but have relied on pitching, defense and more pitching to maintain their status as one of the state's top programs.
The runs finally came for the state's top-ranked team on Tuesday against fellow power Montville, the fourth-ranked team in the lastest New Haven Register state poll. The Lancers scored four times in the fifth inning to rally and win at home, 5-4, in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division, handing the Indians (8-1, 2-1) their first loss.
"Scoring runs has been a little bit of an issue with us," Waterford coach Art Peluso said. "Not because we haven't had opportunities. We've had a lot of opportunities. We just haven't had that ball that's kind of found some grass in the outfield. That little flair, you know what I mean? We haven't had that. Everything we've hit seemed to be hit hard right at someone's glove.
"When the weather gets warmer, we'll be okay. We're taking better swings. We're figuring things out."
Tom Pezzolesi went 2-for-3 with two runs and an RBI for the Lancers (8-1, 3-0), who bounced back from their first defeat, a 2-1 loss to St. Bernard on Monday night. Connor Lewis added two hits and scored for Waterford.
Stan Kesilewski had two doubles, scored a run and had an RBI for Montville, which gets another shot against the Lancers on May 15 at home, while Buddy Dewaine doubled and scored twice.
"I thought by far this was our best played game of the year," Indians coach Phil Orbe said. "We played our tails off today. I was so proud of the kids."
Waterford trailed 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Sam Strout hit a leadoff triple. Pezzolesi followed with an RBI single.
"Once (Strout) got that hit, it picked everyone else up," Pezzolesi said. "Everyone else wanted to do the same thing."
Seth Hoagland and Lewis followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases, and Kevin Johnson's fielder's choice scored Pezzolesi to make it 4-3.
Hoagland scored the tying run on a wild pitch and a second wild pitch brought Lewis home with the go-ahead run.
Montville loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the sixth inning when the game got odd. Starting pitcher Joe Brachas came out to hit after leaving the game in the second inning with an injury.
The umpires ruled that Brachas couldn't re-enter. Orbe contended he could, pointing out that the same thing happened to his team during a 2010 game. A long delay followed while the umpires consulted the rule book and Orbe's argument was eventually rebuked, but he protested the game.
"I didn't protest the game to take anything away from Waterford," Orbe said. "They obviously outscored us, so they deserved the win. The ruling that they were attempting to apply today was not applied (in 2010), so we were just looking for a little bit of consistency."
Greg Benjamin had to bat for Montville. The senior pitcher suffered a compound fracture of his right leg playing basketball on Dec. 18, and was just cleared to pitch on April 19. He hasn't been cleared to hit, however.
Adam Goss struck Benjamin out to end the inning.
"He was not swinging the bat; strict instructions," Orbe said. "I should've forfeited the at-bat and they should've called him out. If I had to do it over again, I probably would've done that."
Goss (3-0) scattered nine hits with nine strikeouts.
"He's got a quality in him," Peluso said of Goss. "He might not throw the hardest, but there's nobody that's going to outwork him. There's no one who wants it more than he does. And there's no one that brings more to the table than that kid, and he does it every single day, so he deserved that win."