Notre Dame-West Haven is expecting a battle in the Class L final against Masuk Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Palmer Field. The Panthers have taken an aggressive approach in the batters box and amassed 26 runs in four state tournament games.
Enter Notre Dame-West Haven pitcher John Amendola.
The Northeastern-bound senior has made Class L batters second guess, swing late on fastballs and strike a pose as breaking balls drop into catcher Aiden Burton’s glove. Amendola will need to do all of the above Saturday, according to Green Knights coach Lou Kessler.
“I hope John’s got a good breaking ball,” he said. “We’ve got to keep them off-balance.”
In a 7-2 drubbing of Southern Connecticut Conference Player of the Year pitcher Kevin Johnson and Law in the Class L semifinals, Masuk used bloop hits, choppers and a homer to advance to the title game for the first time since 2008.
Meanwhile, Amendola has been a hitter’s worst nightmare, allowing no runs in 17 innings of work in the tournament. Amendola has put on a Mike Concato-esque postseason, picking up two wins, two saves and coming one seventh-inning two-out single away from tossing a no-hitter in a 3-0 quarterfinal triumph over Bunnell. Concato hurled a no-hitter for Amity last season in a victory over Greenwich in the quarterfinals and did not allow any runs en route to a title.
Notre Dame-West Haven also boasts pitcher Anthony Rovasio, just in case. Kessler said the defense behind Amendola has to be solid.
“We’ve got to keep the ball down,” the coach said. “Location will be very, very important.”
Conversely if the ball is up in the zone to Green Knights hitters, they will need to deliver. Notre Dame averaged six runs per game this season, but was shut out in two of its last three games leading into the state tournament.
In the 2-1 Class L semifinal victory over East Lyme, the Green Knights were the beneficiary of five Viking errors. Both of the Green Knights’ runs were unearned and the eventual winning run scored off an errant throw on a routine play.
“We can’t just rely on the other team making mistakes to score runs,” Kessler said.
Masuk has relied on mistakes to score and has manufactured runs of its own. Taking a swing first, ask questions later approach has worked thus far. However, it hasn’t worked for any of the scoreless teams Amendola has shutdown throughout the state tournament. Kessler is ready for the battle to begin.
“We’ve got to get guys in scoring position and do whatever it takes,” he said.
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