HARTFORD >> Coming on in relief in a bases-loaded, no-out jam? Check.
Driving in the game’s only run on a double with two outs in the sixth inning? Check.
Heading to a state championship game for the second time in three years? All in a day’s work for Brendan Clark.
The North Haven senior couldn’t have come up bigger in the clutch on Wednesday and led the seventh-seeded Indians to a 1-0 victory over Fitch in a Class L semifinal bout at Dunkin’ Donuts Park. North Haven (18-6) will face upstart Foran in for the Class L title on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown.
“It’s exceptional,” said Clark. “I was lucky enough to go through this two years ago, but being on this field with this group of guys is something else. It’s really special.”
Fitch, the No. 30 seed, finishes 11-13.
As it’s done for much of the season and all of the playoffs, North Haven relied on its “dynamic duo” pitching tandem of Luca Lawrence and Clark. Lawrence pitched a scoreless first two innings but ran into trouble in the third on consecutive singles by No. 9 hitter Aaron Beeney and Tyler Nelli, then a walk to Jake Parizo to load the bases.
North Haven coach Bob DeMayo brought in Clark, who had started the game at third, and he promptly struck out Mike Williams and Hendrick Khoury, then got Connor McCrea to line out to center field and skip out of the jam.
“He’s thrown me in that situation a couple of times,” Clark said of DeMayo. “I’m grateful for that man, showing his faith in me getting out of jams. I really got to give it to my defense, though. It’s not really about me in that situation, it’s about having those guys behind me and with me in those situations.”
Clark didn’t allow a hit over his five innings of work.
Kevin Lucey led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, but the Indians were unable to bunt him over. In the sixth, Matt Solomon led off with a hit, and this time Dom Onofrio bunted him to second.
After a Peyton Farina flyout, Clark stepped up and laced a double to left-center to bring home the game’s lone run.
“That’s our game,” said DeMayo. “I was so ticked off that we didn’t do it the previous inning. I said, ‘If we get a guy on second base, we’re gonna win the game.’ I was Nostradamus for a day.”
Added Clark: “Two outs, I have a saying: Choke up, shorten up and put the ball in play. I choked up on the bat, shortened up with my legs, lower stride, put the ball in play and was lucky to find a gap.”
Now, the Indians face Foran for a chance to win a second state title in three years. They certainly won’t be overlooking the Lions, despite their 7-13 regular season.
“I’ve got to give it to them, beating the one-seed (East Lyme) right out of the gate,” said Clark. “That’s a great accomplishment. They have nothing to lose. They’re a 32 seed, it’s a Cinderella story right there. It just shows anyone can win.”
NORTH HAVEN 1, FITCH 0
Fitch 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
North Haven 000 001 X — 1 5 3
Ian Cekala and Kevin Lucey; Luca Lawrence, Brendan Clark (3) and Tyler Nelli.
WP: Brendan Clark (). LP: Ian Cekala (). 2B: (NH) Brendan Clark. RBI: Brendan Clark (NH);
Team records: Fitch 11-13; North Haven 18-6.