By Jim Bransfield
CROMWELL >> The first play of Friday’s CIAC Class S quarterfinal round game between Somers and Cromwell turned out to be the ballgame. That, plus Cromwell pitcher Jake Regula.
On the first play at Fran Monnes Field, Somers shortstop Brian Hollister booted Mike McNally’s ground ball. That eventually led to an unearned run and that was all Regula and Cromwell needed as the Panthers went on to eliminate Somers, 2-0, and advance to the Final Four.
The No. 2 Panthers will meet No. 3 Thomaston (20-3) in the semifinals on Tuesday (7 p.m.) at Sage Park in Berlin.
Regula threw a two-hitter and struck out 12 in an overwhelming performance.
“This is maybe my second best game of the year,” said Regula, who is headed to Wheaton (Mass.) in the fall. “Getting the win in the Shoreline championship game was the best game.”
Regula, who said his curve ball was his best pitch and that it helped set up his fastball, didn’t allow a runner to reach third base and only two got as far as second.
“He was fantastic,” said Cromwell coach Lew Pappariella. “He hit all his locations and shut down a pretty good offensive team. When you miss as many bats as he did, it makes it so much easier for the defense. He’s a gamer; he wanted the ball.”
After the error in the first inning, losing pitcher Adam Donovan (9-1) got a force out at second. But he walked No. 3 hitter Logan Lessard. After he got a second out on a little roller to first, Cory Baldwin got the unearned run home when he topped a ball that meandered to third for an infield single.
“They capitalized on the error and the walk,” said Somers coach Eric Sharon. “My pitcher gave up four hits, one was a bunt and two were infield hits. It was his first loss and he has an earned run average of less than a half a run a game. Tough loss.”
Cromwell (23-3) got its second run in the sixth, piecing together a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Kevin Radziewicz opened the inning with a bunt single. He moved up on a wild pitch and after Logan Lessard struck out, Regula’s infield single moved Radziewicz to third.
Baldwin grounded to second and when Somers just missed the double play on a bang-bang play at first, Radziewicz scored.
All Somers (17-6) could muster was a two-out double by Brian Rossini in the second, a leadoff single by Donovan in the fifth – he was out trying to steal on a great throw by Radziewicz and an even better tag by shortstop Baldwin – and a runner on in the seventh on an infield error.
Donovan struck out three, walked two and gave up the aforementioned four hits, one of which reached the outfield.
The bottom four batters in the Somers lineup faced Regola (8-2) eight times. Seven times they struck out.
“He kept hitting the outside corner,” said Sharon. “We didn’t adjust and allowed him to dictate the game.”
“I’m very happy with what Jake’s done this year; he deserves all that’s come to him,” said Pappariella. “Last year he didn’t pitch as much as he would have liked because we had a lot of pitching depth. But now, in his senior year, he has really taken to the job. I’m proud of him.”