Losing the first four games of the season is not the way anyone wants to start a new year. Not scoring in the first two makes it even tougher.
But winning the next 14 in a row to get back into the Eastern Connecticut Conference playoff contention makes that four game losing streak hurt much less.
This is exactly what the East Lyme baseball team is going through this season.
The Vikings opened their 2016 campaign with identical 4-0 losses to Lyman Memorial and Norwich Free Academy. They scored their first run of the season in the third game, a 6-1 loss to RHAM. In game four, East Lyme scored five times, but Waterford — who’s averaging 11 runs per game entering Monday — scored 10.
But at the end of that second week things started to turn around.
A 12-2 win over Windham and a 6-5 win over Bacon Academy jump-started the Vikings win streak.
“You get lucky sometimes,” East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said. “I think it was the Bacon game that kicked it off. We ended up winning it in eight innings scoring one run in the bottom of the eighth and you start getting little plays on your side and things start turning in the right direction. Guys start believing that they can play at a higher level.”
And those wins started to add up quickly.
“One win turned into two,” East Lyme coach Jack Biggs said. “Two turned into four and it just snowballed that way. Obviously high school baseball’s a short season and it can go either way.
Monday, East Lyme ended No. 2 Waterford’s 16-game win streak and knocked them off as the state’s lone unbeaten. In the process extended their own win streak to 14 games.
“We we’re just finding out team chemistry, leadership and that kind of stuff,” Biggs said. “And after that settled down into roles it took the pressure off.”
East Lyme has been getting it done all over the field.
“Once we were able to hit the ball a little bit,” Biggs said. “The pitching started to come around and finally defense came around.”
The game vs. Waterford on Monday counted as a non-league game so it didn’t count toward the ECC playoffs, but it was still a rivalry game. The big one this week is Tuesday vs. Fitch for the ECC Large championship.
“They now know that they are a good team of good players on a state level,” Biggs said. “Having that belief in each other has really helped us turn it around.”
No. 2 Waterford scoring in bunches
Waterford coach Art Peluso didn’t seem to want to talk about his team’s undefeated record heading into Monday’s game vs. East Lyme, but when asked about the offensive showcase his team has put on seemingly every game, he got excited.
Waterford is No. 2 in the latest GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 Baseball Poll and has been for the past few weeks. That lofty ranking is mostly thanks to the 11 runs per game average for the Lancers through their first 16 games.
They have scored in double-digits 11 times this year with a high watermark of 19 on May 11 vs. New London. The low was two against Montville a day earlier. The Whalers were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and the Lancers had two many pent up runs they needed to release.
And it’s not just a few big hitters for Peluso’s team, it’s every single spot in the order.
“It’s a top to bottom thing,” Peluso said. “Guys are getting on base, they’re just putting pressure on the pitchers.”
The No. 9 batter in the lineup, Daniel Castelpoggi has a .510 on-base percentage with 22 hits and that’s just the beginning…or the end.
“Seven of our nine guys have 22-plus hits,” Peluso said. “And we’ve played 16 games.”
The team has combined for 13 home runs and each regular starter has double-digit RBIs led by junior catcher Justin Keating who has four home runs and 31 RBIs from the third spot in the order. The clean-up hitter Alexander Petchark has three home runs and 28 RBI.
So yeah, Waterford can hit.
“We’re pretty aggressive,” Peluso said. “We don’t look to walk. Some guys look when they get a 3-1 count or a 2-0 count, they’re looking for a 3-0 count or ball four. We’re looking at him coming with a strike, let’s go get it.”
There are no holes in the lineup.
“When we’re coming in from the field and 7-8-9 are up we’re like, ‘meat of the order’s up,'” Peluso said.
Cheshire success getting noticed
The Cheshire baseball team had won nine in a row before losing on Monday to East Haven 2-1, but before the result came in the Rams arrived in the latest GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 Poll at No. 9.
“The kids like to see their team doing well and getting recognized,” Cheshire coach Bill Mrowka said. “And it builds some confidence too and it helps them out a little bit.”
The confidence started to build back on April 27 when the Rams beat Sheehan 9-0 and then two games later Cheshire handed No. 1 Amity its only loss of the season.
“We kind of went back to some basics when it came to our approach,” Mrowka said. “What kind of hitter we are and just trying to do our job and not trying to do more than we’re supposed to and just let things relax and make it happen.”
The defense and pitching have been the key.
“I think our [team] ERA is 1.46,” Mrowka said. “We’ve got guys with these minuscule ERAs where we’re pitching really good.”
With two more games until the SCC tournament and having to go through the gauntlet that is the Housatonic division, Cheshire is liking its chances.
“There are some good arms that we faced,” Mrowka said. “And we’re in some close games and that does prepare you.”