HAMDEN – With the outs slipping away and Hamden about to take a firmer hold on the top spot in Zone II, North Haven’s David Christoforo had seen enough.
Sitting on a fastball from Hamden pitcher Tyler Osborne, Christoforo got exactly what he wanted and delivered a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning as North Haven Post 76 rallied to record a 5-2 victory over Hamden Post 88 in American Legion action at Hamden High Saturday morning.
“We have a huge game tomorrow (Sunday against Hamden),” Christoforo said. “We are even with them (Hamden) at one and one. We will see what happens tomorrow. It is a big game for both of us.”
With the win, North Haven improved to 8-2 and evened a series which began earlier in the summer against Hamden. Post 88 fell to 12-2, and remains atop of Zone II, although Branford, Orange, and North Haven are now all even with Hamden in the loss column as all have two losses.
“We chose not to bunt in the sixth with two, three, four and five coming up,” North Haven coach Tim Binkoski said. “It paid off for us. Most times, you will play for one run in that inning. We knew we needed a big win. We decided not to bunt and it worked out for us.”
Trailing 2-1, Zack Pincince led off the sixth with an infield single to short, Kevin Lucey singled to left, and Steven Erbe also hit an infield single to short to load the bases.
With Binkoski bypassing the bunt earlier in the inning with the heart of his lineup coming up, the North Haven coach was rewarded when Christoforo launched a long homer over the fence in right for a grand slam and a 5-2 Post 76 lead.
“I was sitting fastball and I got one chest high,” Christoforo said. “I put a good swing on it. All the guys in front of me worked good at bats. I got up and did my thing.”
The rest was up to the North Haven pitching staff as Nate Zalegowski relieved starting pitcher Griffin Bottomley in the bottom of the fifth and escaped a bases loaded two-out jam by retiring Ron Desroches on a grounder to short.
Luca Lawrence then relieved Zalegowski with two outs and the bases again jammed in the sixth, and retired Osborne on a grounder to first to end the threat. Lawrence walked Jake Pisano to start the seventh, but used a double play grounder and another ground out to end the game.
“We had one bad inning,” Hamden coach Ray Guarino said. “I thought we were a little flat today. But, he (Christoforo) crushed that ball. It was a fastball in the middle of the plate and he did what someone his size is supposed to do with it. He crushed that ball.”
Hamden started the game quickly, taking a 1-0 lead off Bottomley in the first as Osborne led off with a triple and scored when Pisano’s fly ball to center was thrown away after Osborne bluffed going home.
Post 76 evened the game in the fifth when Zalegowski hit a one-out double, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Christian Somma’s single to right.
Hamden, which stranded two runners in the third, got that run back in the bottom of the inning with a two-out rally as Osborne reached second on an infield single and error on the play, and scored on Pisano’s single to center.
Bottomley started for North Haven and went 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, while striking out five. Pincince, Christoforo, and Somma led an 11-hit attack for North Haven with two hits apiece.
Osborne went six innings on the hill for Hamden, allowing five runs on 10 hits. He walked two and struck out a pair. Osborne, Pisano, and Mike Ferrett each had two hits for Post 88.
NORTH HAVEN POST 76 5, HAMDEN POST 88 2
N – 000 014 0 – 5 11 2 (8-2)
H – 100 010 0 – 2 7 1 (12-2)
N: Griffin Bottomley, Nate Zalegowski (W,5), Luca Lawrence (6) and David Christoforo
H: Tyler Osborne (L), Mike Aceto (7) and Ron Desroches