MIDDLETOWN >> For the third straight year Amity made the drive to Palmer Field in Middletown. For the third straight year the Spartans got a championship pre-game speech. And for the third straight year Amity won the Class LL state title.
Led by Mike Appel’s three hits, two RBIs and home run, the 14th-seeded Spartans defeated fourth-seeded Staples 8-1 at Palmer Field Saturday to become the first team to win three straight Class LL state titles.
“They peaked at the right time,” said Amity coach Sal Coppola, whose team went 13-7 in the regular season. “They were loose at the right time. They didn’t come in overanxious, they played their game. They did.”
The Spartans close the season at 21-7, winners of the Southern Connecticut Conference championship and the fifth state crown in school history. Although Amity is the first team to win three straight in LL, Shelton was the first to do it at all, winning three straight from 1972-74 in Class L.
Meanwhile, Staples came up short in another championship game in 2015. The Wreckers lost to Wilton in the FCIAC title game. Still, Staples finished the year 21-6 and made coach Jack McFarland proud.
“We just had an unbelievable season,” he said. “We won 17 out of our last 20 games, we were doing it with a lot of young kids. We had three sophomores on the mound today.”
Amity’s coach was proud of his team, too. The Spartans have become known for their stellar postseason pitching, giving up seven runs in 10 postseason games from 2013-14. However, this season it was all about the offense. The Spartans scored 68 runs in seven tournament games (SCC and Class LL) and left Coppola speechless.
“I don’t know,” he said, as he smiled. “I really don’t know. We’ve had great hitting all year, but not everyone together. We kept saying all year if we could put solid performance with everybody hitting we’d be a dangerous team.”
Saturday Amity continued to put it together. The first run of the game came courtesy of a solo home run to right off the bat of Appel in the first inning. After Appel’s blast, the Spartans knew they were in business.
“Getting that one early definitely helped us,” Appel said. “It gave us momentum; it gave our pitcher some comfort. We knew we needed to score more runs, but to begin with that was a big plus.”
Amity would need more runs because Staples tied the game in the third after Nathan Panzer sent an Eli Oliphant pitch deep into the left field bleachers.
Amity came back for two runs in the top of the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Matt Ronai singled home Appel, who singled and advanced to second on a wild pitch earlier in the inning, and Devin Belenski singled home Ronai.
Amity put the game out of reach in the fifth when Chris Winkel doubled home Brian Ronai and Colin Beaulieu, who both singled to start the inning, to make it 5-1. Next Appel singled home Winkel for a 6-1 lead. Matt Ronai singled home Appel and Pat Winkel, who doubled earlier in the inning, for an 8-1 advantage.
On the mound, Oliphant was tough as nails, sans the mistake pitch to Panzer. He pitched a complete game, struck out seven and gave up just four hits.
“He kept (Staples) off balance,” Coppola said. “He throws a great changeup and we’ve always said we think that’s the deadliest pitch you can throw.”
So for the third straight year Amity stayed in control. For the third straight year Amity’s pitching held serve and for the third straight year the Spartans celebrated another championship at Palmer Field.
The 2015 CIAC Class LL Championship
AMITY 8, STAPLES 1
Amity 100 250 0 — 8 11 1
Staples 001 000 0 — 1 4 1
Eli Oliphant and Pat Winkel; Ryan Fitton, Ben Casparius (4) George Goldstein (4) and Noah Yoki.
WP: Elias Oliphant (). LP: Ryan Fitton (). 2B: (AM) Chris Winkel, Pat Winkel.