WEST HAVEN >> With a handful of games remaining in the regular season, every pitch and every inning become more important. For Shelton, the pitching of Justin Lynch was just what the team needed.
Scattering seven hits and striking out six, Lynch helped Shelton remain in front of the crowded pack for the final playoff berth in Zone II with a 5-2 victory over West Haven at Piurek Field in West Haven Monday evening.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of the hitters,” Lynch said. “I wanted to keep the ball in play. This is definitely a big win. We definitely needed it. We were able to bounce back after a couple of losses.”
The win helped Shelton clinch a spot in the postseason as West Haven trails fifth place Shelton by 3 1/2 games with three West Haven games remaining.
“If we execute the little things, we will be successful,” Shelton coach Steve Boles said after his team improved to 15-11. “If we are in, we feel good about that. We have more baseball to play.”
West Haven remains on the outside looking in as the Westies are currently in seventh place, three games behind Milford, with Milford and West Haven playing three games beginning Tuesday in Milford. The Westies need a sweep of the series to have a chance at securing a postseason spot.
“We knew coming into today we had to go 3-1,” West Haven coach Fred Morgillo said after his team fell to 12-15. “Now, there is no room for error. We need to go 3-0. We have our pitching lined up how we want it. Adrain (Urbina) did a nice job for us today. He knew we could not waste an arm and he did a great job after they scored the three runs.”
With the game even at two in the fourth inning, Shelton put the game away with three runs. John Zoppi started the rally with a one-out single to left, Mark Polkowski followed with a double to right and Mike Cowell scored both with another single to left.
After Paul Salley walked to put a pair of runners on, Cowell attempted to steal third. When the throw by West Haven catcher Lou Masselli sailed into left field, Cowell scored for a 5-2 lead.
“That inning was big,” Boles said of the three-run fourth. “The lower part of the order came up strong for us. That was a big part of the game.”
Shelton, which was coming off a weekend sweep at the hands of Orange, jumped on the board first against West Haven starting pitcher Adrain Urbina, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Urbina walked Cowell to start the game and the free pass hurt as Cowell moved to second on a sacrifice by Salley, and scored one batter later on a base hit by Lynch.
After West Haven stranded Frank Johnson on second in the first inning, the Westies took a short-lived 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second.
Jay Wilkerson walked to open the inning and Tim McCarthy reached on an error to put a pair of runners in scoring position. John Cambino walked with two outs to load the bases, setting up Johnson, who singled to left to score Wilkerson and McCarthy for a 2-1 West Haven lead.
“We are disappointed we lost, but we know we have three games left,” Morgillo said. “We have to win out. We had the lead, but that is a good hitting team over there, and they had their guys, Cowell and Lynch, ready to throw. They are tough.”
Shelton came right back in the third inning off Urbina to even the game at two. Lynch singled with one out, stole second, moved to third on a grounder by Hudson Boles, and scored on a single by Marc Zoppi.
Urbina tossed a complete game for West Haven, allowing five runs on nine hits, while walking three and striking out two.
Lynch, Marc Zoppi and Polkowski led Shelton with two hits apiece. Johnson led the Westies with two hits and two runs batted in.