BRANFORD – Orange Post 127 coach Bob Mirto couldn’t remember the last time Post 127 had taken a two games in a three-game regular season series from Branford.
But Branford coach Rich Balzano knew. The answer was never in his 12 years at the helm of Post 83.
But that changed Thursday night when Orange took advantage of some sloppy fielding to record an 8-3 victory in a Zone II American Legion game at George T. Dummar Field. It was the second win for Orange this year over Branford.
With the win, Orange (18-9) clinched third place in Zone II. Post 127 will host a South Sectional playoff game Saturday. The playoff pairings will be released Friday.
“We played pretty well tonight,” Mirto said. “We had played three doubleheaders in four days and we were exhausted. We’ve played 11 days in a row, so it will be nice to have a break tomorrow (Friday).”
Branford dropped to 15-11 and clinched the fourth seed in Zone 2 behind Stratford, Hamden and Orange. However, the 11 losses this summer are more than in any three-year period before for Branford.
“If our pitching improves and we play good defense I think we can be competitive (in states),” Balzano said. “We’re going to surprise some people.”
With the state tournament starting Saturday, both teams elected to use multiple pitchers Thursday night, some of whom are non-pitchers.
“I knew they were trying to save pitching like we are,” Mirto said. “We had a bunch of kids who are competent pitchers, who we were going to use for an inning or two.”
Orange got off to a quick 3-0 start in the top of the first inning with the aid of a pair of Branford errors. Both Rohan Patel and Chase Burzinski each drove in runs with run-scoring singles.
Branford came right back in the bottom of the first inning with two runs on a single by Jordan Botte. Post 83 tacked on another run in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by Will Coleman.
After that, Branford was unable to get any more runs and were held without a hit over the final five innings.
“We’re not a good hitting team,” Balzano said. “We rely on walks errors and a hit here and there.”
Defensive lapses hurt Branford again in the fourth as Orange broke the game open with four runs. Brian Ronai singled in a pair of runs and Patel another.
“We should have played better defense tonight,” Balzano said. “We’re capable of it, but we made too many mistakes.”
Orange tacked on another run in the seventh on a sac fly by Ronai.
ORANGE 8, BRANFORD 3
Orange – 300 400 1 – 8 10 1
Branford – 210 000 0 – 3 2 6
Batteries: O – Rohan Patel, Liam Butler (2), Lou DeGennaro (3), Ron Loricco (6), Max Scheps (7) and Al Smith. B – Devon Lawson, Devin Derenzo (4), Tyler Criscuolo and Rob Barbash. 2B: O – Brian Ronai and Lou DeGennaro. RBI: O — Brian Ronai (3), Rohan Patel (2) and Chase Burzinski. B – Jordan Botte (2).
Records: Orange: 18-9; Branford, 15-11.