BRANFORD >> There’s a picture in the corner of the Branford Post 83 dugout with the words “Shelby City Limits — Home of the American Legion World Series.”
It’s all about the team for the defending Northeast Regional champions, who lost both of their World Series games last summer in that North Carolina town.
“They know what the prize is,” said Branford coach Rich Balzano after Post 83 blanked North Haven, 7-0, Wednesday night in a Zone II matchup at the James MacVeigh Alumni Athletic Complex to improve to 9-0 this summer. “They want to get to the promised land.”
Branford ace right-hander Mike Schettino, who was the No. 4 pitcher last year, thought team-first even after he nearly pitched a perfect game Wednesday night. He issued a two-out walk to Melvin Santiago in the fifth inning for the first base runner he allowed.
“I was losing my control a little bit, but I got it back for the next batter,” Schettino said.
Schettino got out of the inning, but allowed a walk and then Chris Brockett broke up the no-hitter with the only North Haven hit of the night in the top of the sixth.
“He made a nice swing on a good pitch, but it doesn’t matter,” Schettino said. “We just want to win games here. It’s not about one performance.”
Balzano pulled Schettino after six innings to get Mike Keinz some work.
“Mike (Schettino) has a lot of confidence,” Balzano said. “He throws hard and mixes his curveball, plus he keeps them off balance.”
In the meantime, Branford puts runs up on the board early.
Nick Perrelli singled in a run in the first inning and Kyle Hart scored on the front end of a double steal to make it 2-0. A RBI groundout by Tyler Forgione in the third inning made it 3-0.
Branford blew things open in the fourth inning on just two hits off North Haven pitcher Melvin Santiago. Hart and Tyler Criscuolo both drove in runs on fielders’ choices and Perrelli another on a groundout. Forgione also singled in a run to make it 7-0.
“They (Branford) are a good team, but we got ourselves in a hole early in the game,” North Haven coach Charlie Flanagan said. “And Branford doesn’t make mistakes and we made too many.”
North Haven dropped to 3-5 with the loss.
“It’ll be wonderful to be the fifth team to make the playoffs, but that will be tough,” Flanagan said. “I don’t see it this year in this zone.”