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Branford Senior Legion showed up in Shelton for a game on July 16 and would up playing two games’ worth of baseball and then some as Post 83 squeaked out a 1-0 victory in a 15-inning marathon.
Branford plated the game’s lone run in the top of the 15th when Alex King walked, took second on BJ Massey’s sacrifice bunt, went to third when Mike Funaro’s walk loaded the bases, and then came home on a wild pitch.
Post 83—which had already won the Zone 2 title for the fifth straight summer—went on to beat Shelton 3-2 and 7-1 to eliminate that squad from postseason contention. Branford also picked up two forfeit victories versus West Haven to finish the regular season at 29-1.
“We want to win every game we play in the zone and our kids play as hard as they can to win games,” said Coach Rich Balzano, whose squad starts state tourney play on Wednesday, July 23. “We’re just trying to play winning baseball and, any time we can play 15 innings and win, we are happy.”
Branford’s starting pitcher Dylan Millhouse pitched eight scoreless innings and then Mike Schettino—who was slated the start the next day—was called on for relief duty and turned in seven hitless frames while striking out 10 to get the win and improve to 6-1. Schettino is a North Branford resident who just completed his freshman season at UConn Avery Point.
“Dylan threw his nasty breaking ball for a strike almost at will at completed baffled their hitters with his great command,” Balzano said. “Mike is just the consummate team player who will do whatever it takes to win a game. He was really amped up. His fastball was in the upper-80s and he also had good command of his breaking ball and changeup. He was unhittable.”
Still, Schettino needed a little help from center fielder Nick Perrelli to secure to win in the bottom of 15. Shelton’s leadoff batter crushed one to deep center and Perrelli—who normally plays right field—made an over-the-shoulder grab about eight feet shy of the fence to take away an extra-base hit. Schettino walked the subsequent batter, but then retired the next two as Branford hung on for the 1-0 win. The last out of the game was a grounder to Post 83 first baseman Brandon Wynne.
“We wanted the win. It was a really long game and everyone was getting tired, but it was good that we pulled it off. It was pretty exciting,” Wynne said.
Wynne’s teammate and catcher BJ Massey was behind home plate for all 15 innings and felt pleased to see his club grind out a hard-fought victory as Post 83 prepares for postseason play.
“It was an important win for the morale of the team. We showed that we’ll fight for a good length of time and not give up,” said Massey, who just finished his senior season with the Branford Hornets. “We want to do at least as well as we did last year and, hopefully, better. We just have to do the best we can and go game by game.”
On July 27, Branford notched a 3-2 home win versus Shelton that saw Dan Driscoll pitch six innings for the win with Sean Halligan logging the save. Post 83 led 3-1 in the seventh inning when Driscoll gave up hits to Shelton’s first two batters, after which Balzano called for Halligan. The lefty allowed a hit and a walk that made it 3-2, but got the last batter to ground out to Funaro at second and preserve the victory. Kyle Hart came back from a wrist injury to get three hits and Tyler Forgione—who had recently returned from a back injury—collected two hits with two RBI.
Post 83 then capped the regular season by again beating
Shelton at home, this time by the score of 7-1. Mike Keinz threw three innings for the win, Halligan tossed the fourth and fifth, Kyle Hart pitched the sixth, and Brandon Wynne closed it out in the seventh. Hart also had three hits with three RBI, Wynne doubled twice and tripled with two RBI, and Nick Perrelli had an RBI single.
“We played loose knowing the zone was in hand. We tried to get all of our pitchers who had not had innings recently into the game to prep for the tournament,” Coach Balzano said. “We had a couple of double plays to shut down any offensive threats and, once again, the defense was strong. A great way to end the season with a win at home.”
Branford opens play in the Southern Sectional portion of the State Tournament on Wednesday, July 23 with a best-of-3 series at home against either Naugatuck, Orange, Norwalk, or Meriden. If Post 83 wins that series, it advances to the double elimination Super Regional at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford from Saturday, July 26 to Wednesday, July 30. Should Balzano and company get through that, they would play for the state title in the best-of-3 championship series at Cubeta that starts with a 6:30 p.m. game on Friday, Aug. 1, followed by an 11 a.m. contest on Saturday, Aug. 2, and then the ‘if necessary’ winner-take-all third game at 2:30 p.m. that same day.