Vikings knock off top-seeded Colonels in ECC baseball semis
Groton — There’s been a familiar rhythm to the East Lyme High School baseball team the past two years.
The Vikings have been like a bungee jumper the last two regular seasons with extreme ups and downs. They were 4-6 in April, for instance.
“(Then) we get to the tournament and get going,” Vikings senior Luke Leonard said.
East Lyme is at it again. It scored twice in the first inning and went on to knock off top-seeded Ledyard 4-2 in an Eastern Connecticut Conference baseball tournament semifinal at Fitch.
The fifth-seeded Vikings (15-8) will play No. 7 Waterford (15-8) in Friday’s 6 p.m. final at Fitch. The Lancers leveled third-seeded Lyman Memorial 9-0 in their semifinal.
East Lyme beat Waterford in last year’s ECC final, 6-1. They spilt their regular season meetings this spring.
The Vikings hit some turbulence in April, losing five in a row and six of eight.
“We lost every different way,” East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said. “Even mathematically, when we shouldn’t have lost the game, we lost.
“For example, against Guilford, we outhit them 11-to-5. We stranded 15 runners and lost 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Besides the Glastonbury loss (13-2), we either lost in the bottom of the seventh or the bottom of the ninth.”
The Vikings are on a five-game winning streak. Tommy Mason had an RBI single and scored while Leonard had an RBI double and scored in the first.
Nolan Connolly also went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Dan Allard went the distance to give East Lyme’s bullpen a break, scattering eight hits with two earned runs, four strikeouts and no walks.
“We talked about just keep grinding,” Biggs said. “It’s going to turn, it’s going to turn for us. The hitting is going to come. The pitching is going to get a little bit better. The defense is going to come through.
“You want to play your best baseball at the end of the season, and so we’re starting to hit our stride.”
East Lyme went 10-10 last year before going on to win its fourth ECC tournament title this decade, more than any other program.
The Vikings finished the 2014 regular season 11-9 and were seeded 17th out of 32 teams in the CIAC Class L tournament. It knocked off three straight higher seeds, including No. 1 Berlin, before losing in the semifinals to the eventual champion Notre Dame of West Haven 2-1.
Robbie Petriel had two hits and scored for the Colonels (18-4) and Riley Gagnon hit an RBI double.
Ledyard starter Cade Walters had been on a roll of late and pitched his third no-hitter last week. East Lyme scored twice on him in the top of the first.
“Cade has, I think, had eight straight starts of just being basically unhittable,” Colonels head coach Scott Chiasson said. “He didn’t have his full command as he’s had the rest of the season, and when you get behind in the count a lot and have good hitters at the plate, they’re going to make you pay. That’s basically what (East Lyme) did early.”
Leonard’s two-out double scored Drew Menghi in the fourth. Connolly’s RBI single pushed the Vikings ahead 4-0 with one out in the fifth.
“They’re feeling pretty good right now,” Chiasson said about East Lyme. “I’m happy for them because I hope we both go on a run in the (state tournament) and show that the ECC is doing pretty well.”
• Waterford had a hiccup the middle of this month, losing three straight.
The Lancers have come alive since then. Ryan Bakken went 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI in their rout over Lyman Memorial. Waterford had outscored its last four opponents, 31-4.
Asked why his team has gotten so hot coach Art Peluso said, “I don’t know. We changed the approach a little after the Fitch game (a 3-2 loss on May 16). We’re starting to figure some things out."
Waterford played the likes of East Lyme, Fitch and NFA in ECC Division I play as well as Ledyard and Montville. It also lost to Hand and Amity, ranked eighth and 10th, respectively, in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register poll, and to Holy Cross, which will play for the Naugatuck Valley League title on Friday.
“We played a pretty tough schedule this year,” Peluso said. “That kind of prepares you down the road.”
Peyton Sutman had a two-run double, Sonny Pezzello a two-run single and Anthony Tonucci singled and scored twice for the Lancers. Liam Spellman was the winning pitcher.
Waterford beat East Lyme in their first game this season, 1-0 (April 17). The Vikings returned the favor on May 7, 2-0.
“I think both of us are pretty deep (in pitching), but four games in four days is tough for anyone,” Peluso said. “We’ll see what happens when we show up and start playing it. We’re just happy to get another game this week.”
ECC BASEBALL AWARD WINNERS
First team — Pitchers: Ryan O'Connell (Waterford), Nick Gallivan (NFA); Catcher: Cadin Maynard (Waterford); Infielders: Manish Rane-Castrodad (Fitch), Trystan Levesque (East Lyme), Jared Burrows (Waterford), Ben Jerome (Waterford); Outfielders: Vinny Gualtieri (NFA), Tom Mason (East Lyme), Luke Leonard (East Lyme); Utility: Nick Helbig (Fitch); Designated hitter: Owen Robbins (East Lyme).
Honorable mention — Chris Malcom (East Lyme), Tyler Cady (Fitch), Brian Miskiewicz (NFA), Jake Schelkly (East Lyme), Riley Burke (NFA).
Sportsmanship — Jake Schelkly (East Lyme), Kyle Egan (Fitch), Jack Espinoza (NFA), Nathan Landon (Waterford).
Scholar-athlete — Drew Menghi (East Lyme), Thomas Wagner (Fitch), Jon Synott (NFA), Liam Spellman (Waterford).
First team — Pitchers: Cade Walters (Ledyard), Ken Turner (Ledyard); Catcher: Weston Bruce (Ledyard); Infielders: Luke LaSaracina (Bacon Academy), Rob Otanez (New London), Peter Kiefer (Ledyard), Luke Matthewson (Woodstock); Outfielder: Bo Yaworski (Killingly), James Laconico (Ledyard), Tyler Cournoyer (Killingly); Utility: Eric Preston (Woodstock); Designated hitter: Jacob Tarryk (Killingly).
Honorable mention — Kenny Miller (New London), Nate Keefe (Killingly), Elijah Morton (Ledyard), Tyler Perkins (Ledyard), Nate John (Woodstock).
Sportsmanship — Nick Tiziani (Bacon), Nate Lafleur (Killingly), Pat Bora (Ledyard), Tim Flynn (New London), Matthew Moffet (Woodstock).
Scholar-athlete — Sean Baldyga (Bacon), Cole Lavigne (Killingly), Richard Gebhard (Killingly), Rob Otanez (New London), Nathan John (Woodstock).
First team — Pitchers: Pat Quealy (Lyman Memorial), Griffin Pontbriant (Montville); Catcher: Ryan Champagne (Montville); Infielders: Jake Verbridge (Stonington), Rob DelaCruz (Montville), Nick Calash (Montville), Sam Davis (St. Bernard); Outfielders: Spencer Merritt (Lyman), Zach Knowlton (Plainfield), Tyler Ahearn (Plainfield); Utility: Max Adams (St. Bernard); Designated hitter: Alex Lotts (Lyman).
Honorable mention — Tony Incontro (Lyman), Jonah Person (Lyman), Zach Bazzano (Lyman), Ken Heon (Montville).
Sportsmanship — Jaiden Jadczak (Lyman), Peyton McNichol (Montville), Jake Labutti (Plainfield), James Light (St. Bernard), Peter Ferholz (Stonington).
Scholar-athlete — Cole Habeeb (Lyman), Nick Calash (Montville), Dalton Smith (Plainfield), Cole Potts (St. Bernard), Sam Casadei (Stonington).
First team — Pitchers: Bowen Baker (Wheeler), Nick Gileau (Griswold); Catcher: Andrew Koziol (Griswold); Infielders: Jason Hall (Griswold), Mason Barber (Tourtellotte), Jack Merrill (Tourtellotte), Owen Marsh (Griswold); Outfielders: Zach Longeill (Griswold), Stephen Scrapchansky (Tourtellotte), Alex Grauer (Tourtellotte); Utility: Dylan Vincent (Tourtellotte); Designated hitter: Aiden Cameron (Wheeler).
Honorable mention — Jovony Almodover (Windham), Colby Livingston (Putnam), Matt Pierce (Wheeler), Kaden Strom (Tourtellotte), Ray Cruz (Windham).
Sportsmanship — Logan Benoit (Griswold), Jack Lomax (Putnam), Jack Merrill (Tourtellotte), Connor Melinoski (Wheeler), Alec Martinez (Windham).
Scholar-athlete — Andrew Koziol (Griswold), Cole Davagian (Putnam), Dylan Vincent (Tourtellotte), Lukas Jones (Wheeler), Jayden Kelly (Windham).