WATERBURY — Hello, Neuman!
With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the seventh, Southington’s Jake Neuman lifted a double over the right fielder’s head to the fence, scoring Andrew Paradis and sending the Blue Knights to the CIAC Class LL championship game with a 3-2 win over No. 10 Amity.
“It was a fastball. He was 3-2 and I knew he was going to throw me a fastball and I just turned on it and it went my way,” Neuman said. “I knew it was over his head. I wasn’t sure if Andrew (Paradis) would get home but once I looked, I knew he was in. It was an awesome feeling.”
Neuman was also the winning pitcher, going the distance while striking out five.
It is the third walk-off win for No. 3 Southington in the tournament and fourth game winning by one run.
The Blue Knights will face No. 5 Staples in the championship Saturday at noon at Palmer Field in Middletown.
Southington has won three CIAC state championships with the last coming in in 1999. Southington lost in 2013 and 2014 finals to Amity.
In the bottom of the seventh, leadoff hitter Jack Meade walked opening the inning, moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. Paradis hit a grounder to Amity shortstop Sebastian Formica, who made a stellar play cutting down Meade at third.
The left-handed Neuman quickly made Southington forget the miscue with his game-winning double.
An error by the Amity first baseman with two outs and two on opened the door for Southington in the bottom of the second.
With the bases loaded, both Bryce Worth and Meade worked walks, bringing in the first two runs of the game, giving the Blue Knights a 2-0 lead after two.
Amity finally broke through with a run in the top of the fifth. Peter Spodnick reached on a fielder’s choice before stealing second and advancing to third on a groundout to shortstop.
A Tanner Santos walk put runners on the corners. Julian Stevens then blooped a single just out of the reach of the diving centerfielder, scoring Spodnick.
Amity tied the game in the sixth on a RBI-single to left by Jonathan McNelis, scoring Jack Ranani. The Spartans had a chance to grab the lead, but a double-play on an attempted sacrifice bunt snuffed out the rally.
“A couple of little things. It comes down to little things and we didn’t bunt well today. That really hurt us,” Amity coach Sal Coppola said. “I think if we push those runners over in that situation, things are probably different. They are obviously a really good team, but if we execute a little bit better, we maybe take the lead then.”
Amity was playing in the semifinals for the seventh-straight season.
“These kids just believe in each other. I don’t think anyone on this team wants to let anyone else on this team down. These guys have played together for a long time. The biggest thing for me, is I get to come and practice with these guys again tomorrow. For me, that’s the big thing.” — Southington coach Charles Lembo
STAPLES 3 CHESHIRE 0
Chad Knight has been great for four years at Staples both on the mound and at the plate.
He is arguably the best player in the state yet, when the lights are the brightest, he is able to elevate his game to another level.
In the CIAC Class LL semifinals Tuesday night, he was spectacular, striking out 10 in a complete-game, three-hit, shutout of No. 1 Cheshire, leading the Wreckers to a 3-0 victory.
“When you look around and see your teammates all amped up and you know what’s on the line that gives me some more energy,” said Knight, who also hit a solo home run. “Losing to Cheshire last year hurt so bad and we were excited to compete against them, today. It was such a privilege to get to compete against a great team like that.”
No. 5 Staples will face No. 3 Southington in the CIAC Class LL championship game either Friday or Saturday at Palmer Field in Middletown.
The Staples seniors have been through a lot from the Little League World Series to winning Class LL in 2017 and the group of Knight, Harry Azadian, Drew Rogers and Charlie Roof are thrilled to have one more game together.
“It means the world,” Knight said. “I have really treasured every single moment I have had with the Staples baseball program and every single moment I have had with all my teammates. Hopefully, I will cherish the last seven innings we get to play together this weekend.”
Staples got on the board first with two runs in the top of the fourth.
Drew Rogers lead off with a single to left before stealing second. That was followed by a double down the right-field line by Zach Zobel, scoring Rogers. Zobel advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Azadian, coming in to score on a wild pitch to the next batter.
Knight would help himself, blasting a solo-home run to left in the top of the sixth.
Cheshire threatened in the bottom of the sixth, but could not get to Knight.
Paul Villecco singled to right, followed by a single by Ian Battapaglia, who stole second, putting runners at second an third with one out.
Knight took it from there, striking out the next two batters, ending the Rams’ best opportunity.
It was Cheshire’s first loss since opening day against Amity.
“We had a great season,” Cheshire coach Mike Lussier said. “They just went 25-straight games without losing. Tonight, we had two great pitchers on the mound. Tonight, you could see in the sixth inning, they didn’t let up, again. That’s the game of baseball and the baseball gods were not in our favor today.”
“When you are the No. 1 player in the state of Connecticut, these are the kind of things you do. You hit the ball in the trees and you strike out 10 and you dominate one of the better lineups in the state. You don’t get that Gatorade Player of the Year because you have a fancy name, you have to do stuff. He’s 8-0 on the mound, he has 12 home runs. He knows this is an elimination game and he knows he has a great defense behind him.” — Staples coach Jack McFarland