NORTH BRANFORD >> Coginchaug baseball coach Mark Basil is enjoying his first season in Durham. Basil, who replaced longtime Blue Devils mentor Ted Lombardo (retired), is also the head football coach at North Branford High School where he’s built one of the top programs in the Pequot Conference.
Basil brought his Blue Devils to North Branford on Tuesday looking to atone for a lopsided loss against the T-birds earlier this season. But Coginchaug’s rally fell short.
North Branford jumped out to an early six-run lead with some timely two-out hitting, then held off Coginchaug, 9-8, in a Shoreline Conference contest.
Trailing 9-7 in the top of the seventh, Coginchaug sophomore John John Jose drew a walk against North Branford starter Mike Hoyt. After Aiden Doyle grounded into a fielder’s choice, Tucker Root blasted a single into right field and pinch-runner Cole Niedmann scored all the way from first when the ball skipped past the T-birds outfield.
Root raced to second on the outfield error and Dan Turecek moved pinch-runner Kyle Adams to third with a ground out.
Hoyt, however, got Jake Sapia to fly-out to Matt Chamberlain in center field for the final out.
“I was happy with the way we responded but I wasn’t happy with the way we started,” Basil said.
Jose gave the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead in the top of the first with a scorching two-run double. But the T-birds answered against Jose, a hard-throwing sophomore righthander, with three runs in the bottom of the frame. North Branford got an RBI double from Chris Raynor and an RBI single from Ryan Kusmit, while also taking advantage of a pair of infield errors, to grab a 3-2 lead.
With two out and nobody on in the third, Chamberlain stroked a single up the middle to start a five-run rally. After a walk and another infield error, Kusmit, Derek Candelora, and Jeff Jablonski each delivered RBI singles and North Branford had an 8-2 advantage.
“We made some awful mistakes in the first two innings,” Basil said. “I was standing there watching some of these plays and I couldn’t believe what was happening. Everything came with two outs.”
The Blue Devils started to chip away in the third inning after consecutive singles from Brendan Sirois and Connor Wenchell, who both scored on ground outs, and closed the gap to 8-5.
Gio Tirollo’s RBI single in the third gave the T-birds a 9-5 cushion.
But North Branford was also sloppy in the field and after Wenchell scored on an infield error in the fifth, Doyle’s line single to right scored Jose (2-for-3) and the Blue Devils trailed 9-7.
“We probably played our worst defensive game of the year,” North Branford coach Bill Mitchell said. “But give Coginchaug credit. They hit the ball hard.”
Hoyt went the distance for the T-birds (9-5), who have won five straight. The junior righthander scattered nine hits, walked one and struck out one.
“We hung in there and Mike dug down deep and got the last out,” Mitchell said. “I was proud of the kids today. These are the games you have to win.”
Coginchaug, which has dropped four of their last five, fell to 7-8.
“We want to make the tournament and then we’ll grow from that and see how we do,” Basil said.