BRANFORD >> With the way things were set up, Devin Derenzo knew he was going to get a chance to drive in the winning run.
And the first year Branford first baseman came through Thursday night with a game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning as Post 83 edged West Haven Post 71, 7-6, in a Zone 2 American Legion clash at George T. Dummar Jr. Field.
After blowing leads of 4-0, and then 6-4 in the top of the seventh, Will Coleman walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh for Branford. After Bryce Baker sacrificed him to second, West Haven elected to walk Tyler Criscuolo to keep the double play possibility set up.
However, Derenzo had other ideas. He was looking for a fastball from the middle in. After getting a first pitch curve ball, Derenzo got the pitch exactly where he wanted it and collected his fourth hit of the night with a single to left field that plated Coleman with the winning run.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play and get him in,” Derenzo said. “You don’t want to get up there and try and do too much.”
It gave Post 83 its fifth consecutive win, but it wasn’t pretty.
Branford took a 4-0 lead after two innings when West Haven starter Nick Price was wild and walked six batters in 1 2/3 innings of work with four of them scoring. Mike Querfeld singled in a pair of runs in the first inning and Derenzo doubled in another in the second, along with Geoff Yasevac scoring on a wild pitch.
After Derenzo’s RBI double, Price was lifted for Lorenzo Davis, who pitched well, allowing just three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
“We didn’t expect him to come in today,” West Haven coach Fred Morgillo said. “He was shut down to rest for Sunday, but when Nick couldn’t go to the fourth or fifth inning, we didn’t have anyone else for long relief and he had to come in.”
And West Haven chipped away off Branford starter Dan Driscoll, scoring a run in the fourth inning on Price’s RBI single and then Adrian Urbina singled in a pair in the fifth to close it to 4-3. That ended Driscoll’s night in favor of Nick Candelora, who allowed an unearned run in the sixth.
“Our defensive lapses were horrible and that’s the strength of our team,” Branford coach Rich Balzano said. “We can’t have breakdowns like that. We have to address it.”
Branford got the lead back in the bottom of the sixth when Querfeld squeezed in a run on a perfect bunt and then Dylan Millhouse singled in another run.
But after Candelora allowed a leadoff single in the top of the seventh, he exited in favor of Millhouse, who was touched up by Post 71 for two runs on singles by Price and Tim McCarthy that deadlocked things again at 6-6 going to the bottom of the seventh.
“We had some big hits in the seventh, but Davis would have liked to get it another run in,” said Morgillo, whose team was swept in the three-game series. “Unfortunately, it was what could have been. The whole series was like that.”
With the victory, Branford remained in first place in Zone 2 with the win. Post 83 leads Orange (11-2) by 1 1/2 games in zone race. The two teams will meet on July 17 in Branford in what could be a winner take all game for the zone title.
“We need every game now,” Balzano said. “We have to play better and are capable of it. We’re okay with our start, but we still have series with Shelton and Stratford and one more game with Orange.”
West Haven dropped to 7-9 with the loss and is currently in seventh place in the zone.
BRANFORD 7, WEST HAVEN 6
(at Branford HS)
W — 000 121 2 — 6 9 0
B — 220 000 2 1 — 7 13 2
Batteries: W– Nick Price, Lorenzo Davis (2) and Tim McCarthy. B — Dan Driscoll, Nick Candelora (5), Dylan Millhouse (7) and Mike Gogliettino. 2B: W — Alex Scranton. B — Devin Derenzo. RBI: W — Price (2), Adrian Urbina (2), McCarthy (2), Scranton (1). B — Derenzo (2), Mike Querfeld (3), Millhouse (1).
Records: West Haven, 7-9; Branford, 14-2.