BRANFORD >> It’s a little too early to proclaim a zone champion, but Stratford is certainly in the driver’s seat in Zone 2.
Post 42 improved to 16-2 Sunday morning with an 8-0 American Legion baseball victory over Branford at George T. Dummar Field. With the win, Stratford has a four-game lead over Hamden (12-6) in Zone 2.
Post 42 also completed a three-game sweep over Branford the first time since Stratford joined Zone 2.
“I’ve only been in the program for six years and I remember the days when we got killed,” Stratford coach Mike DellaVecchia said. “We’re playing well, the pitching has been great, we’re playing defense and we have a positive good group of kids.”
On the flip side, Branford’s losing streak has reached six games, by far the longest in Rich Balzano’s 12-season tenure as coach of Post 83. Branford (11-7) hadn’t lost more than two games in a row under Balzano prior to this streak.
“Beyond two games is new territory for us,” Balzano said. “I told the kids they are very good players, but we’re just in a funk. We’re taking some plays off, not executing or playing good defense, but we’ll snap out of it.”
Stratford righthander Tim Leveen held Branford to just six hits and only one Post 83 player reached third base in the entire game. That came in the sixth inning when Will Coleman doubled to left and went to third on a fielder’s choice.
Other than that and the seventh inning when Branford pieced together two hits, Post 83 was unable to get more than one baserunner in an inning.
“Tim is very efficient and today he stayed ahead in the count,” DellaVecchia said. “He also stayed in the zone and that’s the way he pitches.”
Stratford gave Leveen all the runs support he would need early as Branford righthander Mike Keinz was wild, walking the first two batters of the game with a wild pitch mixed in between that allowed Brian Valeriano to score on a Sac fly by Zach Piroh to make it 1-0.
Keinz, who has been pitching despite an arm injury, walked the first four batters of the second inning to force in a run before Balzano pulled him in favor of Devon Lawson.
“Mike is trying to come back and push himself a little early,” Balzano said. “He’s a real competitive kid that wants to help out, but I think we need to let him sit for a full week.”
Stratford added three more runs on an error, a run-scoring single by Connor Anstis and a sac fly by Sam Breiner to make it 5-0.
“We tell our players the best pitch is strike 1 and we didn’t help their pitchers at all,” DellaVecchia said.
Post 42 added three more runs in the sixth on a single by Dan DeCilio, a fielder’s choice and during a rundown on a pickoff play.
“They are good, top to bottom,” Balzano said. “They hit the ball well, their pitchers throw strikes and they play good defense. They’re an older team with a lot of experience.”
STRATFORD 8, BRANFORD 0
Stratford – 140 003 0 – 7 9 0
Branford – 000 000 0 – 0 6 1
Batteries – Stratford: Tim Leveen and Sam Breiner. Branford: Mike Keinz, Devon Lawson (2), Devin Derenzo (7) and Rob Barash. 2B – S: Christian Bradley. BR: Will Coleman. RBI – S: Zach Piroh (2), Sam Breiner, Brett Cody, Connor Anstis, Dan Decilio.
Records: Stratford, 16-2; Branford, 11-7.