MILFORD — The second half of this season is one that players on the Foran High team have tried to let escape from their minds.
After winning six of their first seven games, including a 10-0 victory over city rival Jonathan Law, the Lions saw that roller coaster ride start to descend
In its last 11 contests heading into Thursday’s re-match with Law on Senior Day at Ken Walker Field, the 2017 Class L state champions had only put up three victories in their last 11 contests.
But it was all smiles on the Foran side after Rich Piscitelli and Jason Giambra combined to pitch a four-hitter, and lead-off hitter Mike Simonelli provided the muscle with a double, triple and two RBIs.
Foran will now take a 10-9 record into its final game with Shelton on Thursday.
Simonelli, a lefty swinger who hit a looping liner right inside the chalk in right field for a two-bagger to open the game, gave Foran two insurance runs in the sixth when he drove a ball to deep right which kept carrying and went over the head of Law’s Colin Buchner.
It chased home Justin DeEll and Ryan Gosselin, who had both singled in front of him.
“Coach (Garrett Walker) told me before the at-bat that good hitters always learn how to square up to the ball,” Simonelli said. “I went up there and I got fooled first by his (Law reliever Colby Primavera) curve ball. Then he brought his fast ball and I do what I usually try and do — pull the ball down the line.”
This one, however, went to straight-away right toward Buchner who had to turn and head for the fence in order to retrieve it. Simonelli kept motoring and made it to third.
“Once you see those numbers on a player’s back, you know that you got to get going,” Simonelli said.
DeEll, Foran’s designated hitter, opened the frame with a line single up the middle and was immediately moved up a base on Sam Sinisgalli sacrifice.
DeEll reached third on Ryan Gosselin’s infield single. Primavera got the second out by fanning Tyler Griffin before Simonelli’s second big hit of the game.
James Marino and Garrett Tutlis had hits for Law.
Foran took the early lead with a run in the second.
Giambra walked before going to second on a pick-off attempt by Josh Baker, whose throw went off Zach Merchant’s glove. He moved to third on a ground out and scored when Sinisgalli singled to left center.
Law pulled even at 1-all in the fourth, using a base hit by C.J. Parkin, a walk to Merchant and an infield error.
The Lions sent seven batters to the plate in the fourth to produce the go-ahead run and forced Baker into throwing 37 pitches.
Rich Carino, who had singled to right center leading off, came around to score on an infield error.
Baker settled in after that and retired six straight Foran batters between the fourth and fifth innings on only 18 pitches.
“His pitch count today might’ve been high, but I liked the way he (Baker) pitched,” said Law coach Greg Simler. “Josh generally throws strikes. We needed to obviously give him a little more run support and play a little better defensively.
“We’re at a point where we need a win in one of these two last games (against Xavier and Bassick) to make the state tournament. We need to go out and play better baseball. That’s it.”
The win may have given Foran a sweep in their seasonal series, but more important to Walker was getting the victory.
“It’s always special playing them,” he said. “Getting a win today was vital. We found a little consistency, which I haven’t seen for the better part of the second half of this season. We held the lead today; we got ourselves out of a couple of nail-biting situations; and we got good pitching efforts from both Rich and Jason. It’s a positive sign.”
Simler and Walker have spent a considerable amount of time battling each other in this rivalry.
“I knew when I got to Law in 2007 (Simler served as an assistant for four years), I sensed right away that this was going to be something special,” he said. “And it has been. It’s pretty cool, there was lots of energy being used out there today by both clubs.”
Walker played four years for his dad, the late Ken Walker at Foran and has now been the head coach for seven.
“It’s a 25 to 30-year involvement for me,” he said. “Yes, it’s special. I like going up against Greg’s teams because they always compete. You are going to almost always get a good game.”
The victory was also sweet for Simonelli, a newcomer at the rivalry.
“I’ve known many of their players since childhood,” he said. “Some of us went to either elementary or middle school together. It’s nice to go out and get bragging rights.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Foran’s Mike Simonelli was 2 for 4 with a double and a triple, and two RBIs.
“We held the lead today; we got ourselves out of a couple of nail-biting situations; and we got good pitching efforts from both Rich and Jason. It’s a positive sign.” — Foran coach Garrett Walker