WEST HAVEN >> Sometimes all it takes is a little spark. The Notre Dame-West Haven baseball team can surely attest to this.
Trailing from the start of the game and looking sluggish in the process, the Green Knights were six outs away from the end of their season.
However, sophomore Dylan Reynolds wouldn’t allow this to happen. His bad-hop single started the bottom of the sixth inning with Notre Dame down three runs and opened the flood gates that saw Green Knights score five times on six hits, while taking advantage of three Pomperaug errors in a 5-3 comeback victory in the second round of the Class L tournament Tuesday afternoon at Quigley Stadium.
With the win, fourth-seeded Notre Dame will host No. 5 Bunnell, a 9-1 winner over Windsor, Friday afternoon at a time to be determined.
For five innings, Pomperaug’s lefty starter Justin Mayer kept the Green Knights off the board and showed no signs of surrendering a 3-0 lead.
After Reynolds opened the sixth inning with the single, Zack Balabon followed with another single and Evan Lumpinski followed with a one-out single to right to score Reynolds. An error on the cutoff allowed Balabon to score and put Lumpinski at second.
Andrew Natale followed with a double to right to score pinch-runner Rolando Marcano to even the game at 3. Senior
Jim Davins then pinch-hit for Lou DeGennaro and his grounder to second got by Cooper Mooney to score Natale with the go-ahead run.
“We got some big hits in the inning,” Natale said of the sixth. “The line drives which did not fall earlier went through. We all knew what we had to do. We had some guys step up.”
Mayer’s day was done and Tyler Dielemans came on to finish the inning. Before he could do so, Aiden Burton singled to put runners on the corners and Drew Arciuolo followed with a double to left center for a 5-3 lead.
“We hurt ourselves defensively and offensively,” Notre Dame coach Lou Kessler said after his team improved to 18-5. “We got away from doing what we did yesterday and we started hitting pop ups.
“We got some big hits in that sixth inning. Natale comes up big and Davins comes off the bench with a big at bat. He has been swinging the bat well and he comes up with two big RBIs late the last two days. Everybody has a varsity uniform, so they have to be ready to help off the bench.”
The offensive explosion was enough to make a winner out of sophomore Zach Ardito, who relieved starter Anthony Rovasio with one on and no one out in the fifth.
Pomperaug’s Nick Sarno scored on a fielder’s choice, but Ardito got his team out of the inning, then pitched out of a jam in the sixth with a strikeout and groundout to set up the dramatics in the bottom of the inning.
Not wanting to let any chance of a victory escape the team, Kessler called on John Amendola, who pitched a gem just 24 hours earlier, to get the final three outs. Amendola obliged, making quick work of the Panthers in the bottom of the inning to send Notre Dame to the quarterfinals.
“I hated to use him, but I did not want to look too far ahead,” Kessler said. “We put Amendola in and it quickly makes our defense better.”
Tuesday’s victory didn’t come easy for the Green Knights as they squandered numerous chances and ran themselves out of rallies. Notre Dame left two runners on in the first, had a runner thrown out at the plate in the third, and left a pair in scoring position in the fourth.
No. 13 Pomperaug, on the other hand, was forcing Notre Dame into mistakes with its aggressive running.
The Panthers (16-9) took a 2-0 lead in the second when Sam Rubinstein scored after stealing third when Aiden Burton’s throw went into left field. Eric Walsh followed with a single to score Luke Frering for a 2-0 advantage.
After leaving two runners in scoring position in the third and having another thrown out at the plate in the fourth by Natale in left, Pomperaug extended its lead to 3-0 in the fifth on a fielder’s choice grounder by Jake Wilson.
“They are a quality team over there,” Pomperaug coach Mike Eisenbach said of Notre Dame. “I am unbelievably proud of this team. I can’t put into words what they have done, especially in the second half of the season. I can’t ask for anything more. This is a special group of kids.”
Arciuolo and Natale each led Notre Dame with a single, double and an RBI. Reynolds also had two hits for the Green Knights. Sarno led Pomperaug with a pair of hits.