NEW BRITAIN >> Morgan baseball coach John Litevich earned a state championship ring at Branford High in 2006. He was an assistant for the Hornets late mentor George Dummar.
Now, Litevich is one win away from getting the Clinton school its first title. Again.
The third-seeded Huskies (20-4) earned their second consecutive trip to the Class S state championship game with a 6-0 victory over No. 23 Cromwell on Tuesday at Beehive Stadium.
Morgan, which lost to Northwest Catholic in last year’s final, will meet No. 4 St. Paul Catholic (19-6) Saturday, 3:30 p.m. at Middletown’s Palmer Field.
“That’s all we were looking for … to get back to the finals and redeem ourselves,” said Litevich, who is finishing his 10th season. “We had a goal and we were focused. Still, it’s a total surprise. These kids have worked their tails off and they play hard all the time.”
The Panthers (16-11) rolled into the semifinals on a six-game winning streak, which included a win over Valley Regional in the Shoreline Conference championship. But Morgan senior Chad Neri put an end to Cromwell’s momentum.
Neri scattered four hits, struck out four and walked one in a terrific complete game performance. Morgan’s defense never allowed a Panthers baserunner to reach third base.
“It felt great pitching,” said Neri, who hasn’t allowed more than two runs all season. “The cutter was moving great. It had a lot of break. Getting early runs on the board makes me feel better. It gets everything going.”
Neri, a righthander who was selected the SLC Pitcher of the Year, improved to 10-0. He has a career mark of 19-2.
“He has been unbelievable all year,” Litevich said. “He hasn’t lost since his sophomore year. I can’t say enough about him.”
Morgan jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning against Panthers starter Aidan Gagnon. The Huskies took advantage of a hit batsman, a walk, and a key two-out infield error at first base that allowed two runs to score. A.J. Fritz and Madden Ward then followed with back-to-back singles.
In the fourth, Huskies senior catcher Dylan Ketch tripled to the right field corner and scored on another infield error to make it 4-0.
Senior Peter Dewey went 2-for-3, while Noah Budzik and Gagnon had Cromwell’s other hits.
“Neri pitched a heck of a game,” Cromwell coach Lew Pappariella said. “We hit a couple of deep fly balls that just didn’t fall for us. We were a little unlucky today. For our guys to make it this far after winning a Shoreline title, that’s a couple of nice notches in our belt for the senior class.”
Senior Will Fritz went 2-for-4 for Morgan, which extended its lead to 6-0 in the fifth on consecutive pinch-hit RBI singles from Tyler Borzillo and Russ Green.
“That’s how you win championships,” Litevich said. “When people are giving an opportunity they step up.”
MORGAN 6, CROMWELL 0
(at Beehive Stadium, New Britain)
Cromwell 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
Morgan 030 120 x — 6 9 1
Aidan Gagnon, Matt Osora (5th) and Sean Melaven; Chad Neri and Dylan Ketch.
WP: Chad Neri (10-0). LP: Aidan Gagnon. 3B: (MO) Dylan Ketch. RBI: Madden Ward, Tyler Borzillo, Russ Green.
Team records: Cromwell 16-11; Morgan 20-4.