WEST HAVEN – Branford coach Rich Balzano says it usually takes his team 10 to 12 games to gel at the start of the season. With a strong history over the last few years, no one could argue with him.
If such is the case, the rest of Zone 2 should be concerned once again. Opening the season with four wins in its first five games, Branford Post 83 is winning while seeing what fits.
The latest wins came Saturday as Branford swept a doubleheader from West Haven by scores of 4-1 and 8-0 at Piurek Field in West Haven.
“It still takes us about 10 to 12 games to get the lineup right,” Balzano said. “Everybody knows their jobs. We are learning and winning. These are important wins.”
The start of the season has been just the opposite for Post 71. After a season-opening win against East Haven, the Westies have dropped four straight, with the lack of clutch hitting being the main offense.
“We have not gotten the big hits,” West Haven coach Fred Morgillo said after his team fell in the opener. “They will come. We have been in the games. We have to start getting those hits.”
The Westies had an early lead in the opener, but could not hold on as defensive miscues allowed Branford to remain in the game. With West Haven starter Sean Morrissey throwing the ball well, Branford waited for its opportunities, then pounced when those opportunities came about.
Trailing 1-0 as West Haven scored on an infield single by Mario Kiaunis in the second, Branford took advantage of a West Haven miscue in the fourth.
Tyler Criscuolo led off the fourth with a double and scored one out later on a double by Ben LaCroix. With two outs, Alphonse Suppa reached on an error in right, scoring the go-ahead run.
“We took advantage of some opportunities,” Balzano said. “Our pitcher (Devon Lawson) threw strikes and we made some plays defensively. He kept the ball down in the zone and mixed up his pitches. He did a very good job of keeping them off balance.”
The rest was up to Branford starter Devon Lawson, who kept the Westies off balance, allowing one run on five hits, while walking one and striking out two. Lawson worked around a one-out walk to Kalan Morgillo in the fifth, and stranded Morrissey who led off the sixth with a single.
“I wanted to throw that first-pitch strike,” Lawson said. “That was the big pitch. My fastball was working today. I was able to mix in my pitches.”
Post 83 then put the game away with two more runs in the seventh. Jordan Botte led off the seventh with a single, before Suppa reached on an error attempting to sacrifice Botte into scoring position.
With one out, Brandon Kilfeather singled. A walk to Nick Candelora and Criscuolo getting hit by a pitch followed as Branford expanded the lead to three runs.
“We got some timely hits today,” Balzano said after the opener.
The three-run lead was more than enough for Lawson as he retired the side in order in the seventh, allowing just one ball out of the infield.
“We did not get the big hit,” Fred Morgillo said. “We had good at bats. We are just hitting the ball at people. Sooner or later, those will find holes. Their shortstop (Candelora) played great. They made some great defensive plays that prevented us from scoring runs. We did not make the plays.”
West Haven had its opportunities against Lawson early, but could not come up with a big hit. Morgilllo singled with one out in the first and Tim McCarthy followed with a two-out single. Lawson escaped by getting Nick Demaio on a grounder to the mound.
Brett Gradoia helped get the Westies on the board in the second inning with a leadoff double. After a sacrifice by Sean Jefferson, Kiaunis brought in West Haven’s lone run with the infield hit.
Morrissey pitched well for the Westies, allowing four runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out three.
“We had no idea how many starters we had coming into the season,” Fred Morgillo said. “We knew we had a couple in Lorenzo Davis and (Sean) Jefferson. Sean Morrissey was a question mark. We didn’t know if he would be used in relief or start. He pitchd well. I think he was better than we could have expected.”