BRANFORD >> Branford American Legion coach Rich Balzano shook his head a couple of times in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Balzano wore out a path to the mound as Branford went through three pitchers and none of the members of his Post 83 pitching staff could find the plate at all.
And it cost the Zone 2 champions dearly as Branford walked six consecutive batters that gave Monroe Post 176 a stunning 5-4 victory and a sweep of their Southern Division sectional series Thursday afternoon at George T. Dummar Jr. Field.
“It was a tough loss because we thought we had them,” said Balzano, whose team finished 23-7. “The kids fought as best as they could.”
After Branford had taken a 4-2 lead in the top of the 10th inning, Post 83 southpaw reliever Dawson Frawley got one out, but then he walked a pair of hitters and Balzano pulled him in favor of Nick Candelora.
“Dawson seemed like he was struggling today and we thought we needed to make a switch,” said Balzano.
But Candelora, who had caught all 9 1/3 innings up to that point, was wild as well and walked two hitters to force in a run to make it 4-3. That left the bases loaded for Mike Keinz, the third Post 83 pitcher of the inning.
Keinz fared no better, as Monroe’s Pat Ryan walked to tie the game. Then winning pitcher Chris Lindquist came to the plate after a discussion with Monroe coach Bob Pagel.
“I told him to put his toes on the plate and look at pitches,” Pagel said. “We have pitchers that hit and hitters that pitch. He’s a pitcher and he wasn’t even thinking about swinging.”
Lindquist worked the count to 3-and-2 and took a pitch that was ever so close to a third strike for ball four and the walk that ended the game and Branford’s season.
“We struggled with our control all year and it came back to bite us,” Balzano said. “There’s nothing you can do to overcome walks.”
Pagel said he’ll take the win, but hated the way it ended.
“It’s a terrible way to win,” Pagel said. “You want your kid to be the hero by getting a game-winning hit, but a win’s a win. I told the kids to be patient, but this is unheard of.”
Branford, which was the visiting team in the game, had taken the 4-2 lead in the top of the inning when Devin Derenzo doubled and scored on a broken bat infield single by Mike Querfeld. Querfeld scored later in the inning when Jordan Botte walked with the bases loaded.
Branford, had taken a 2-0 lead in the middle innings when Derenzo and Will Coleman singled in runs.
Monroe tied it at 2-2 with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Matt Romaniello scored on a wild pitch in the sixth and then Tim Quinlan singled in a run in the bottom of the seventh inning on a hard hit bad hop grounder that went over the head of Branford shortstop Bryce Baker.
“That kid is a solid fielder,” said Pagel. “If the ball is hit to him, he’s going to make the play. Unfortunately for them, the field is the field.”
Monroe (23-8) moved on to the double-elimination South Sectional tournament, which begins Saturday in Middletown.
MONROE 5, BRANFORD 4
(at Branford High School)
Branford 000 110 000 2 — 4 13 1
Monroe 000 001 010 3 — 5 7 2
One out when winning run scored.
Batteries – Branford: Sean Halligan, Gerald Delise (8), Dawson Frawley (9), Nick Candelora (10), Mike Keinz (10) and Nick Candelora and B.J. Massey (10). Monroe: Pat Ryan, Mike Dellapiano (10), Chris Lindquist (10) and Matt Romaniello. 2B: Devin Derenzo (B). 3B: Tyler Criscuolo (B). RBI — Branford: Derenzo, Will Coleman, Mike Querfeld and Jordan Botte. Monroe: Tim Quinlan, Chris Lindquist and Nick Dellpiano. Runners left on base: Branford, 11. Monroe, 11.
Winning pitcher: Lindquist. Losing pitcher: Candelora.
Records: Monroe, 23-8. Branford, 23-7.