STRATFORD – For a majority of Tuesday evening’s contest, Stratford Post 42 was stymied by New Haven starting pitcher Jose Colon. Three pitches changed all that around.
Using a seventh inning rally, Stratford scored twice to defeat New Haven 3-2 at Penders Field in Stratford. With the win, Stratford remained on top of Zone II action with a 17-5 record, while New Haven saw its postseason hopes take a big blow as it fell to 11-11.
“This is a very big win for us,” Stratford coach Mike DellaVecchia said. “It is so important to win the zone. It means a lot, especially giving our pitchers the extra days off. We have some guys injured as well. It is essential to get those extra days to get some guys healthy.”
For New Haven, the game was a golden opportunity wasted in the chase for the final playoff spot. With just four teams from the zone qualifying for postseason play, New Haven is sitting on the outside looking in right now with North Haven, East Haven, and Hamden just ahead as each have 12-9 records.
“They are the zone leader,” New Haven coach John Taubl said of Stratford. “We knew they would put up a fight at the end. We are fighting for the fourth spot and every loss hurts. We got what we were looking for on the mound.”
Taubl was referring to Colon who limited Stratford to just five hits over the first six innings. Post 42 then turned the game around in an instant.
Zach Dunkel reached on a leadoff walk, and Neil Velasquez followed with a bunt single over the head of third baseman Jensey Padilla to put a pair of runners on.
Tyler Vancho then laced a first pitch single to center to score pinch-runner Connor Anstis to even the game at two, and put runners on the corners.
Angel Mendez relieved Colon, and after intentionally walking Zach Piroh to load the bases and set up a force at home, Anthony Herman followed with a hard grounder to second, which went for an infield single to score Velasquez with the winner.
“Getting the leadoff guy on was key,” DellaVecchia said. “Neil (Velasquez) got the bunt over the head at third for a single and Tyler (Vancho) comes up big with a single. We were able to put the ball in play and made things happen.”
Herman not only drove in the winner, but he kept Post 42 in striking distance in the top of the seventh when he fired a laser from center field to throw out Mendez at the plate as he tried to score from second on a two-out single by Josh Colon.
“He has been making plays like that all year,” DellaVecchia said of Herman. “He is very accurate and that turned out to be a big play.”
Stratford jumped in front early, taking a 1-0 lead in the second when Dunkel doubled to left with one out to score Patrick Browne after Browne led off the inning with a single.
New Haven took the lead in the fourth with a pair of runs off Stratford pitcher Jonathan Brooks. With one out, Omar Diaz singled and moved to third on a double to left by Joemar Aviles. Diaz scored on a single to right by Eric Redente, and Aviles scored on a grounder to second by Jonathan Rios for a 2-1 advantage.
“You can’t take anything away from them,” Taubl said. “They are a very good team. We got a well-pitched game. I am really proud of him (Jose Colon). I felt he gave us as gutty a performance as he could. We squandered some opportunities.”
Jose Colon tossed six plus innings for New Haven in the loss, striking out four. Diaz led New Haven with three hits, while Mendez, Aviles, and Redente each had a pair of hits.
Brooks went the distance for Stratford, allowing 11 hits, while striking out one and walking two.