89ers Junior Legion Extends Win Streak

Michael D'Onofrio was not only East Haven's winning pitcher against Hamden, but also reached base five times
Michael D'Onofrio was not only East Haven's winning pitcher against Hamden, but also reached base five times Photo by John Vanacore/The Courier

The East Haven Junior Legion baseball team extended its winning streak to six games with a 10-5 win over Hamden on July 7 at East Haven High School.

A strong bench performance and a six-run sixth inning propelled the 89ers to victory as they tore through three Hamden pitchers in the frame. Head Coach Lou Ciaramella replaced four starters in the fourth inning or later, all of whom had a major impact on East Haven’s big inning.

“The bench brought the energy today,” he said. “We were flat, but the kids off the bench did a hell of a job. Credit to them, they didn’t quit.”

East Haven (8-10) was down 5-2 entering the top of the sixth—Hamden’s field was under construction so they were the home team despite the game being at East Haven—when the bats woke up. Tyler Leone, who entered the game in the fourth, led off the inning with a single to right field. That was followed by a single to left by Austin Thornberg that drove Hamden pitcher Anthony Sitro from the game.

Mark Smith, who was pinch hitting for Vincent Paolillo, battled with Hamden reliever Tyler Rowe before slapping a curveball down the third base line to reach first. Leone scored on the play, Thornberg moved to third and Paolillo advanced to second on the throw home. Thornberg scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Carbone, and Smith would eventually score on a single by Albert Maio who entered the game in the fifth inning himself.

Maio’s knock tied the game, 5-5, but the 89ers weren’t done as they loaded the bases for the No. 8 spot in the order—pinch hitter Anthony Durso. Durso worked the count full against Rowe before being issued a free pass to drive home the game-winning run.

Hamden (6-10) made another pitching change following the walk, but still couldn’t answer East Haven’s offensive onslaught. Leone came up for the second time in the inning and belted a pitch into the left center field gap to score two more runs and bust the game open.

“Once one person hits it seems like the rest of the team just follows,” Leone said. “I think they (Hamden) were a little frustrated after all of the pitchers they brought in. It seemed like they didn’t have anybody left because they had a long weekend.”

Garrett Pates got the start for East Haven, but only lasted two-plus innings before being removed after surrendering five runs. He allowed seven hits, walked one and hit another before handing the ball to Michael D’Onofrio.

“Pates’ ball was up a little bit so we made the right move,” Ciaramella said of the pitching change. “I decided to use him (D’Onofrio) this weekend a couple of innings and today I asked if he had anything left. He said that if I needed him he’d throw and it was crucial. We went to him right away.”

D’Onofrio was the winning pitcher for the 89ers, tossing five innings of four-hit ball to keep Hamden at five runs.

“I’m the veteran here so I have to step up and lead them all,” D’Onofrio said. “I had to inning eat today and got through it and we started hitting when everybody came in so it was a total team effort.”

East Haven was the first team on the board, as they scored in the first inning. Thornberg reached base via a walk and scored when Brandon Sutherland was walked with the bases loaded. They scored another in the fifth when Paolillo singled home Brandan DePalma. Smith and Carbone both crossed home in the top of the seventh following an error and a sacrifice fly to add more insurance runs late to help the 89ers complete their come from behind win.

“They had us down 5-1 so it’s huge from a standpoint that it’s something we can build on,” Ciaramella said. “We were down 5-1 and I’m sitting here thinking that we’re in trouble. I knew we needed to make some moves. The bench did a great job and that’s from the young kids getting time.”

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