WEST HAVEN — His Amity teammates had rallied to tie Hand with two out in the bottom of the fourth of the SCC baseball semifinals at West Haven’s Whitey Piurek Field. They had turned the lineup over to get Cole Kuchachik to the plate.
Kuchachik untied it promptly, blasting a three-run triple to right field, putting the Spartans ahead for good in a game they held on to win 7-6. After a year’s absence, they reached their 13th SCC final in the past 16 times a final has been played.
“It means a lot. We had a lot of new guys come on, play new roles for the team. It’s good to see,” said Kuchachik, a senior.
Both second-seeded, 10th-ranked Amity and third-seeded, eighth-ranked Hand are 16-6.
The Spartans move on to the final, Thursday night at 6, also at Piurek Field. They’ll meet top-seeded, top-ranked Cheshire (21-1), which beat fifth-seeded North Haven 13-4.
“All you can do is hope you’re grooving at the right time at the end of the year. We’ve still got work to do,” Amity coach Sal Coppola said.
“We’re in need of a couple of good practices, but that will be after tomorrow, unfortunately. We don’t have any time to prepare. It’s three days in a row.”
Hand starter Julian Banerji had been zipping along, his pitch count under 40 with two out in the bottom of the fourth.
But a walk, a hit batsman, a single and a couple of more walks tied the game at 3.
“(Banerji) battled, though. He did a great job,” Hand coach Travis LaPointe said. “He’s not a starting pitcher. We’ve used him out of the bullpen just to close games, and he gave us a hell of an effort.”
Coppola liked the Spartans’ approach in that inning.
“It was good at-bats. It was laying off the high pitch,” Coppola said. “There were a couple of really close high pitches that were, he was consistent in his zone, and they laid off them. A walk is as good as a hit in that situation.”
Reliever Kevin Tracy came on. Kuchachik said he was looking for a fastball away to shoot to right field with a 1-1 count. He tripled.
“He’s batting close to .400,” Coppola said, “and you get him up with bases loaded, that’s huge for us.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Cole Kuchachik’s three-run triple put Amity ahead for good.
Cheshire won its 21st game in a row, and the Rams had to come back to do it. They spotted North Haven a 2-0 lead, then scored six in the bottom of the third.
Ian Battipaglia’s two-run single tied it, and Matt Costello’s two-run single untied it.
“Giving up those two runs at the beginning, it kind of got us going more,” Battipaglia said. “We weren’t flat in the beginning, but we weren’t as, like, pumped up as we should’ve been. Once they got those two runs, we knew we were going to pick it up, and that six-run inning really showed it.”
Costello finished with three RBIs for the Rams, who scored six more in the bottom of the sixth to put it away. Ryan Strollo, Rob Roles and Eli Battipaglia also had two RBIs apiece.
Owen Silk had an RBI double for North Haven (12-10), and David Christoforo and Kevin DiMartino had RBI singles.
The Rams last played in the final in 2011, when they won their only SCC championship.
“The chemistry and the resilience” stand out about this group, Battipaglia said. “Most of us played last year and started last year. We’ve been playing since we were 8 years old.
“The resilience to fight back is definitely on this team.”
SHUTTING IT DOWN
Will Rotko has been big late in games on the mound for Amity, Coppola said, and he pitched the last three innings after starter John Lumpinski gutted his way through four innings, nearing 100 pitches.
The Tigers rallied in the top of the seventh, down 7-3. The first three batters got hits, the last by Anthony DePino to drive in a run. Kevin Girardi’s sacrifice fly and Will Kleinhenz’s double made it a one-run game.
“They just hit him. It wasn’t like he hurt himself,” Coppola said. “Give them credit. They’re a good hitting team.”
A fly ball, no gimme on a windy afternoon, finally ended the threat.
“(The Tigers) never quit. That’s been their calling card all year,” LaPointe said.
Hand’s coach likes where his team is going into the Class L playoffs.
“We’re ready to win, oh yeah,” LaPointe said. “This team’s ready to win.”
Amity got a break to lead off the bottom of the fourth with an overthrow allowing the batter to reach. Amity gave the break right back when the runner turned toward second and was nabbed off base when the overthrow caromed hard off the fence.
The Spartans still managed to rally with two outs.
“To be able to do it with two outs was huge,” Coppola said.
“This group brings a lot of energy to the game. We’re a really close bunch.” —Amity senior Cole Kuchachik