MILFORD — Step one of four is almost in the books for Branford Post 83.
The defending Northeast Regional champions are within a win away from clinching their fifth consecutive Connecticut Zone 2 title after edging Milford Post 196, 2-1, in just 80 minutes Friday night at Foran High School.
Post 83 (23-1) plays East Haven in a three-game series this weekend, before wrapping up its zone season with a three-game series with Shelton next week. They’ll get two forfeit victories thanks to West Haven disbanding its program for the year.
Right now, Branford also has the best record in the state with RCP (Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland) second at 17-1.
“We’d like to get the No. 1 seed,” said Branford coach Rich Balzano. “We hope it will help us in some way.”
Even with the win, Balzano wasn’t thoroughly happy with the way Branford played even though Kyle Hart returned to the lineup in center field after sitting out a week due to a sprained wrist and shortstop Tyler Forgione has been out for nearly three weeks with a back injury.
“I think we chased up on some balls,” said Balzano. “We need to focus a lot more. Having the last three days off was tough.”
But Branford was able to take a 1-0 lead on Milford righty Tyler Chacho in the top of the second inning when Brandon Wynne doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Will Coleman.
Meanwhile, Dylan Millhouse (4-0) pitched out of trouble in the first, third and fourth innings, but got help when Hart threw Milford’s Sean Clark out at the plate trying to score on a fly ball.
“We had to take a chance,” said Milford coach Cliff Bugyi. “We had second and third with no outs and couldn’t score.”
Branford added another run n the seventh when Coleman was hit by a pitch, went to second on a sacrifice bunt by B.J Massey and scored on a single by Chris Stankiewicz. Coleman has been playing second base regularly for the last few weeks with Forgione out. Post 83 also played Friday night without infielder Mike Funaro, who was away at college orientation.
“Will has come up big in a lot of games,” said Balzano.
“That hurt us,” said Bugyi. “We were chasing one run and then we were chasing two.”
Milford (8-15) scored its only run with two outs in the seventh when Mac Taylor walked, stole second and scored on a double by Bob Auger.
At that point, Balzano pulled Millhouse in favor of his ace Mike Schettino, who threw seven pitches to fan Colin McKenna to end the game.
“Millhouse took us as far as he could, but he ran out of gas,” said Balzano. “Mike will throw tomorrow (against East Haven). He only threw seven pitches and that’s like a bullpen session in between starts.”