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No. 1 East Catholic ousts No. 4 Waterford in Class M baseball semis

Bristol — There was a time Wednesday afternoon when the growing legion of Waterford High haters out there might have confronted the unthinkable: Holy insufferable. Are the Lancers going to dethrone the top seed in the Class M baseball tournament and win THIS game, too?

Waterford did have a lead into the third inning with left-hander Dan Driscoll working against five lefty hitters in East Catholic's lineup. Hmmm.

And then reality finally made its appearance at Muzzy Field, illustrating that the No. 1 Eagles come by their undefeated record honestly.

East Catholic (24-0) scored two in the third, two in the fourth and four in the fifth, denying No. 4 Waterford a chance to bid for a 12th baseball title with an 8-2 win.

East will play No. 2 Northwestern Regional in the title game Saturday at 3:30 at Palmer Field in Middletown.

"A lot of times, we're them," Waterford coach Art Peluso said, alluding to East Catholic and the experience of winning a state semifinal. "State championships in baseball are very difficult to win, let's be honest. It's a single elimination tournament and every game is Game Seven. But you give yourself a shot when you get to the second week. It's a good learning experience for the kids who are coming back."

Regrets? The Lancers will have a few. Namely a failed opportunity to turn a double play in the third and leaving the tying runs aboard in the fifth.

Driscoll had a 1-0 lead in the third, facing Ryan Shaw with two on and one out. He induced a comebacker that could have been a 1-6-3 double play, but instead threw the ball away, after some confusion at the bag. East eventually took the lead.

"That's a play we usually make," Peluso said.

"That one was on me," Driscoll said.

In the fifth down 4-1, Ryan Salvador's RBI single off eventual winning pitcher T.J. Winn brought the Lancers within two at 4-2. After a wild pitch, Waterford had second and third and two outs before Winn got Connor Rowe on a fly ball.

"In the fifth we had the tying run at second base," Peluso said. "We had some opportunities. Not many. But we had some. It just didn't work out for us today. But that's part of baseball."

East scored four times off Waterford ace Connor Podeszwa, who entered in relief in the fifth. Podeszwa was the winning pitcher in last Saturday's quarterfinals, but allowed four straight baserunners.

East ace Frank Mozzicato worked the final two innings, striking out four and walking Mason Concascia and Jackson Long. Mozzicato, who has a scholarship to UConn, has 117 strikeouts in 48.2 innings this season with a 42.1 inning scoreless streak. He hit 90 on the gun with his fastball Tuesday.

"I figured he would come in," Peluso said. "We weren't overwhelmed by his presence. And he's got a presence. He's a good player. It's baseball. Swing the bat and compete. That's what we did today."

Evan McCue's RBI single scored Will Rocchetti with the game's first run for the Lancers, who finish 19-3.

"Our guys showed up all year. The six seniors (Salvador, Rowe, Podeszwa, Rocchetti, Driscoll and Logan Avin) we have are one of the best senior classes we've ever had," Peluso said. "They played hard every practice and every game. You saw it today. They kept playing. If the juniors do what the seniors showed them and take that blueprint, we'll be a good team next year."

m.dimauro@theday.com

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