ORANGE >> Branford pitcher Mike Schettino knows just how important he is to the Branford Post 83 American Legion baseball team.
With the departure of several key arms from a season ago, Schettino’s role is now as a leader of the Branford pitching staff.
Schettino needed just 90 pitches to lead the way as Branford defeated Orange 6-0 at Brinley Field Thursday night. He allowed four hits, struck out 11 and threw 64 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
“I was just trying to get ahead in the count,” Schettino said after his team improved to 4-0. “I wanted to mix my pitches enough to keep them off balance.”
Post 83 gave Schettino all the run support he needed in the second inning with three runs without a ball leaving the infield. After striking out Nick Perrelli and getting Tyler Forgione on a groundout, Orange pitcher Ross Weiner looked to have an easy inning.
That, however, didn’t materialize as Brandon Wynne walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and third on Will Coleman’s infield hit to third. Weiner then struck out Xavier Santiago, but the ball went to the backstop, allowing Santiago to reach first and Wynne to score from third.
Chris Stankiewicz reached on Branford’s second infield single of the inning to load the bases, a walk to Mike Funaro scored Coleman and a wild pitch scored the third run.
“They have two outs with no one on and they score three runs without a ball leaving the infield,” Orange Post 127
coach Bob Mirto said after his team fell to 2-1. “They took advantage of their opportunities.”
Aside from a long second inning in which he threw 36 pitches, Weiner was effective in the game — throwing eight pitches in the first, 13 in the third, 12 in the fourth, 11 in the fifth and seven in the sixth for a total of 51.
Branford then forced Weiner to throw a lot of pitches in the seventh with another two-out rally. Funaro walked and Tyler Criscuolo followed with a long home run to right for a 5-0 lead. Kyle Hart followed with a double and Perrelli singled to right to increase the lead to 6-0.
“We wanted to put the ball in play and put pressure on their defense,” Branford coach Rich Balzano said. “We did a great job with two outs.
“We are just a bunch of lunch pail kids who come ready to play. Mike Schettino was amped up. He knows this is his year. He kept them off balance. He did not fall behind hitters. It is not often you come to a game here and leave after a win. It was a good win for us.”
Orange had limited opportunities in the game and was retired in order four different times by Schettino.
In the first, Jake Russo singled with one out, but didn’t come around to score. Mike Appel singled with one out in the second and Gerald Farace reached on an error, but Zach Chamberlain hit into an inning-ending double play.
Chris Winkel singled with one out in the fourth, but was erased on Matt Ronai’s inning-ending double play. Post 127 put a pair of runners in scoring position in the seventh, but Schettino got Farace on a grounder to short to end the game.
“Their kid pitched a good game,” Mirto said of Schettino. “His curve was effective. He pitched a heck of a game.”
Branford had seven hits, with Hart picking up two and Criscuolo adding the long home run to right, scoring once and driving in a pair. Appel had two of Orange’s four hits with Russo and Winkel picking up the other two.