MIDDLETOWN >> One game, winner take all.
Stamford evened the State American Legion Championship series at a game each with a hold-on-to-your-seats, 6-4, win over RCP in front of 350 on Saturday afternoon at Palmer Field.
The third and deciding game of the rematch of last year’s two finalists will be played at Palmer Sunday at noon. The winner advances to the Northeast Regional at Bristol’s Muzzy Field next Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. against Massachusetts runner-up Pittsfield.
“This game reminded me a lot of the second game last year [which Stamford won],” RCP coach T.J. Grande said. “By winning game one, we gave ourselves a chance tomorrow. But we didn’t play RCP baseball today.
“We gave them opportunities by throwing the ball around. This wasn’t us.”
RCP made three throwing errors and every one meant a run. In the second inning Anthony Frangiose opened with a single and when starting and losing pitcher Amir Nitowski made a wild pickoff throw, Frangiose went to third. He walked home on Pete Horn’s (4-for-4) double to tie the game 1-1.
In the fourth inning Stamford took the lead for keeps, scoring two runs. And once again a throwing error — this time by catcher Trevor Whalen — allowed a run to score. Grant Stone’s line single to left produced the other run.
After Stamford got two in the fifth and RCP answered with two in the sixth, the winners got another free run when Whalen threw the ball into left field attempting to get Horn who was stealing third with two outs.
But truth is, RCP benefited from some bad Stamford defense, too. The two runs it got in the sixth came when right fielder Shawn Urbano ran into center fielder Frangiose as he was catching what would have been Nick Querioz’ easy pop fly third out.
The ball popped out, two runs scored and RCP was back in the game.
Down 6-3 in the ninth, RCP loaded the bases with one out and got a run on a bases loaded walk. But reliever Leo Socci, who created the mess by giving up two hits and two walks, struck out Kevin Larkin then got Roland Thivierge to foul out in front of the Stamford dugout to end it.
“This was fun,” said Stamford coach Kevin Murray, whose team continues without its two starters who were ruled ineligible Friday. “We did little things today, we battled. That last inning was tough, but we won the game and that’s just what we wanted. Now it’s one game.”
Starter Chaz Powell — who just completed his freshman year in high school — was brilliant. He threw eight innings, allowing just five hits, striking out four. Only one of the runs was earned, the run that scored in the first inning on Larkin’s sacrifice fly.
“Powell showed me a lot,” said Murray. “He had a rough first inning [a single, a walk, a hit batter] but he settled down. We’re thrilled with his performance. He kept us alive.”
RCP had its chances, but Powell wiggled out of jams, stranding eight RCP runners. The Stamford defense helped, throwing Cole Ogorzalek out at the plate from right field on Larkin’s two out single in the third and turning in a double play on a fly ball to right when Thivierge wandered too far off first base.
Today’s championship game should be a matchup of two aces — Stamford’s Grant Stone and RCP’s Trevor Lord.