MIDDLETOWN -Notre Dame coach Don Martone insists his team isn’t doing anything differently than it was when the Green Knights appeared to be headed for a mediocre finish at 6-8 with just six games left in the regular season.
ND won all six of those remaining games and less than a month later finds itself in its fourth CIAC Class L title game in seven years as the No. 11 Green Knights held off 23rd-seeded Avon 4-3 Tuesday afternoon in the semifinals at Palmer Field.
“You know what, we had a couple of one-run losses then got left on the field twice, so we just couldn’t catch a break it seemed,” Martone said. “Then we won a couple of games in a row and you could see the confidence start to grow in them.”
Overall, Notre Dame (18-9) has now won 12 of its last 13 games, with the only loss coming to Amity in the SCC finals.
Tuesday’s hero, as it was in the Knights’ SCC semifinal win over Hamden, was designated hitter M.J. Dziczkowski.
With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Dziczkowski — who hit a long homer to beat the Dragons — turned on a pitch from Avon (13-11) reliever Kyle Emery and hit it into the left-field corner, clearing the previously full bases and giving Notre Dame a 4-1 lead.
“It’s hard not to be too anxious, but it helped to have been in that situation before,” Dziczkowski said.
“It took a while for us to come together, but we’re rolling now. We definitely want to put another banner up to add to the rest we see all the time.”
The Falcons got a run back in the sixth and got three hits in the seventh, cutting the advantage to 4-3. With two on, two out, and Avon’s hottest hitter Sean Del Gallo — who was 3-for-3 already — coming up, Martone went to his bullpen for sophomore Mike Sansone, who beat New Fairfield Saturday.
Del Gallo hit the ball a long way to right, but Michael Torniero — who just moved from center to right on the pitching change minutes before, tracked it down just in front of the warning track and the Green Knights could celebrate.
Avon outhit Notre Dame 10-6, although ND starter Dylan Reynolds did not walk anyone in 6 ? innings and the Green Knights did not commit any errors. The Knights not only got all their runs in the fourth inning, but left just three men on base in the contest.
Notre Dame won Class L in 2014 (beating Masuk) and 2011 (over Farmington), falling in the 2010 final to fellow SCC team Sheehan. In all, the SCC has won eight of the last 10 Class L baseball titles, a streak ND would like to add to either Friday night or Saturday back at Palmer Field.
“This year, we basically came back with only two or three returning starters,” Martone said. “So it’s basically a new team as far as varsity experience, but we’ve been through some tough times, stuck together, and here we are. It’s a really great group.”
NOTRE DAME-WEST HAVEN 4, AVON 3
Avon 001 001 1 — 3 10 1
Notre Dame 000 400 X — 4 6 0
Will Boone, Kyle Emery (4), Connor Harris (6) and Jeremy Zarwaski; Dylan Reynolds, Mike Sansone (7) and Matt Martinello.
WP: Dylan Reynolds. LP: Will Boone. SV: Michael Sansone. 2B: (NDWH) M.J. Dziczkowski, Martinello.
Team records: Avon 13-11; Notre Dame-West Haven 18-9.