WEST HAVEN – With the regular season games counting down and the battle for the final two playoff spots in high gear, the North Haven American Legion baseball team knows it can only control one game at a time. North Haven wasted no time in taking care of business Wednesday evening in West Haven.
Scoring three times in the first inning, North Haven cruised to a 7-1 victory over West Haven Post 71 in the first game of a doubleheader at Piurek Field in West Haven. The victory improved North Haven’s record to 13-9 and inched the team into third place, just ahead of Hamden and East Haven.
“It’s like déjà vu from last year,” North Haven coach Tim Binkoski said. “We had to win our last three games. This year, we lost five or six games which could have gone the other way. The guys have battled all year. It again comes down to the final three games.”
With Stratford and Orange the top two teams in the zone, the battle for the final two spots comes between North Haven, Hamden, East Haven, and New Haven, with 1.5 games separating North Haven and New Haven from the third and sixth spots.
After West Haven (4-16) stranded Mario Kiaunis at third in the top of the first, North Haven scored three times to take a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the inning. Kevin Lucey singled to score Dominic Onofrio, Tom Myjak hit into a fielder’s choice to score Brendan Clark, and Nate Zalegowski singled to score Myjak for the three-run lead.
“That three-spot gave us a little bit of separation,” Binkoski said. “Then we started chipping away and putting more runs up. We were able to separate.”
North Haven starter Chris Ciarlegio needed only four pitches to get through the second, and his team responded by tacking on a run for a 4-0 lead after Chris Stevens scored as part of a double steal in the bottom half of the inning.
Post 71 scored its only run of the game in the third when Kiaunis singled with one out, moved to second on a balk, and scored on a single to center by Lou Masselli.
“We are losing games by six runs, but it is a couple of mistakes which are turning close games into six-run games,” West Haven coach Fred Morgillo said. “We are not cashing in on our opportunities. We need to hit more.”
After the Westies left another runner in scoring position in the fourth, North Haven increased its lead to 5-1 in the bottom half of the inning. With two runners on, Lucey singled to score Onofrio.
North Haven put the game away and knocked West Haven starter Adrain Urbina from the game with two more runs in the sixth. Myjak knocked in Clark with a single, and a wild pitch scored Lucey with the final run of the game.
“I thought he (Urbina) pitched well enough to win,” Morgillo said. “We have to score more than one run. We left some opportunities out there.”
Onofrio and Lucey each had two hits for North Haven, with Lucey driving in two runs. Kiaunis and Masselli each had two hits in the loss for Post 71.