WEST HARTFORD >> Add another championship to the RCP American Legion team’s resume.
Post 105 clinched its fifth consecutive Zone 7 title with a 4-0 win over second-place West Hartford at Hall High School Tuesday evening. Tucker Lord led the way with an overpowering two-hitter, striking out 11.
RCP (18-4), which is based in Cromwell, is the reigning Connecticut State and Northeast Regional champion.
“When Tucker is right, he dominates,” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “I knew when I saw him tonight he was going to do this. He did everything we wanted from him. He was just dominating.”
Lord faced only 23 batters and finished in style, striking out the side in the seventh inning.
“It’s taken me some time to get into a good groove,” said the veteran pitcher. “But I felt ready, I felt good and I was confident going in. Confidence helps a lot.”
The first 16 batters made out, but there’s a story here. West Hartford cleanup hitter William Jackson led the second inning with a walk. But after he reached first, Grande approached the plate umpire and asked him to look at Jackson’s bat.
“It was a composite bat, which is illegal in Connecticut,” Grande said. “I kind of felt bad, but it’s right there in the rules that the bat is illegal.”
After a lengthy discussion between the umpires, the umps enforced the rule which called for the batter to be ruled out, and for him and the coach to be ejected from the game. Both went quietly.
In the fourth inning, Alex White opened with a double, but tried to stretch it to a triple and was thrown out on a brilliant relay from center fielder Austin White to second baseman Noah Budzik to third baseman Nick Queiroz.
Budzik also made a brilliant play to end the inning, diving to his right and throwing from his knees to nip Joe Celio at first.
“Noah just finished his sophomore year and was the starting shortstop for Cromwell High,” Grande said. “He kind of gets lost with the veterans we have, but we know he can play. Those were two great plays.”
RCP won the game with a three run first-inning rally. After Cory Baldwin led the game with a walk, Cole Ogorzalek dropped a pretty bunt towards first that got by the pitcher for a base hit.
After White flied out, West Hartford shortstop Dan Roth booted what might have been a double play ball hit by Trevor Whalen. That error allowed Baldwin to score and when left fielder Tyrek Robinson threw wildly past third, Ogorzalek scored and Whalen went to third
Kevin Larkin got the third run home with a sacrifice fly to right and just like that it was 3-0 before the Westies (16-7) came to bat.
RCP added its fourth run in the fifth and once gain Ogorzalek was in the middle of things.
He started the inning with another bunt base hit, catching the third baseman deep. He stole second, went to third when White hit the ball to the right side and scored on Larkin’s second sacrifice fly of the night. A-B-C baseball played to perfection.
“Cole is a gamer and yes, he’s always in the middle of things,” Grande said. “The thing is, our four graduating players — Cole, Cory, Leo [Thomas] and Tucker — are the heart of this team. They show the younger players how it’s done. I have no idea where we’d be without them.”
Mike Mathews was the starting and losing pitcher. He went six innings, allowed five hits — two of them Ogorzalek’s bunts — and struck out three. Only one of the runs was earned. James Gadue threw a 1-2-3 seventh.
West Hartford managed to get two runners on only in the sixth on a walk and a single by Sean Langan with one out. But Lord got a popup and then Baldwin made a great throw from deep short to get Roth on a bang-bang play that produced howls of protest from Roth and West Hartford.
Cheshire 3, Middletown 2 >> Cheshire rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Middletown, 3-2, and win its fifth consecutive Zone 3 championship at Cheshire High’s Burt Leventhal Field on Tuesday evening.
Cheshire (16-15) got the tying run on a sacrifice fly and the winning run on a two out infield single to hand reliever Dan Botti the loss.
Middletown starter Scott Marks went six strong innings, allowing just four hits and left after 65 pitches with a 2-1 lead. But the 75ers (7-14) couldn’t hold the lead.
Middletown’s two runs came on a bases-loaded walk to Jake Alonzo and an RBI single by Nevin Sanchez. The two teams meet Wednesday in a doubleheader (5:30 p.m.) at Palmer Field in Middletown. It is Fan Appreciation Night for Middletown.