BRANFORD >> Branford’s pitching was nothing short of dominant last season. John Amendola, Ben Criscuolo, Greg Zullo and Co. helped lead the team to the American Legion World Series.
All of those guys are gone this year.
This season a new pitching staff, led by a familiar face in Mike Schettino, has Branford at 17-0 and only allowing 1.3 runs per contest.
“(Schettino’s) taken it upon himself to bring along some of these younger guys and he’s mentored them a little bit,” coach Rich Balzano said.
Schettino led North Branford High School to the Class M quarterfinals in 2013. Now at UConn Avery Point, the pitcher is using his experience to help take care of some unfinished business in Shelby, North Carolina where Branford was eliminated last season.
“We want to go back,” he said.
Branford, much like last season, possesses Zone 2’s best pitching staff. Dylan Millhouse, who helped lead Hamden Hall to a New England championship, and Sean Halligan have helped bolster the staff. Branford has seven shutouts this season and has allowed more than six runs in a game once, in a 10-6 victory over New Haven on June 21.
“We have confidence out there,” Schettino said. “We have confidence in everyone.”
The pitching staff’s job has been made easier thanks to an offense that has tallied 129 runs in 16 games played. Branford’s 17th victory, where it was credited seven runs, was a West Haven forfeit. In total, Branford has 136 runs, which is the most of any Legion team in the state. Sluggers Brandon Wynne, Nick Perrelli and Kyle Hart have been tough outs.
“The pitching’s been there,” Hart said. “As long as the hitting’s there, we’re just going to keep winning.”
After falling short of an American Legion World Series title last season, Branford is focused on getting back. On a hot July day the team was out at practice, working on bunting, fielding and hitting. It was 90 degrees out, but with the chance to get back to Shelby fresh on the team’s mind, the players remained in good spirits.
“They know where they want to go,” Balzano said.