Dan Izzo hits 3 run HR as West Haven advances to District 4 LL finals with win over Annex pic.twitter.com/GPRNKnq1Zw
— Mike Madera (@MikeMadera2) July 15, 2016
ORANGE >> There are not many times second chances are awarded in the sports arena, yet alone a third. For the West Haven 11-12-year-old District All-Star team, a third chance is exactly what it has received.
Losing in the District finals the last two years, the Westies hope the third time is the charm as they defeated Annex 19-0 in the District 4 semifinals in Orange Thursday evening.
West Haven advances to the District 4 final against Milford National Saturday at 3 p.m. in North Branford.
While the Westies lost to Orange the past two seasons, they get an opportunity to claim the title if they can avenge an opening loss to Milford to start the tournament.
“I think it was a wakeup call for us,” West Haven coach Chris Jones said of the loss to Milford. “I think maybe we came into that game a little too confident. It was a smack in the face. I think it may have been the best thing to happen to us.”
Despite starting over an hour late due to a rain delay in the first semifinal, Thursday evening’s thumping of Orange saw West Haven pound 12 hits, including five home runs. Greg Baker hit a pair of homers and finished with five runs batted in, Dan Izzo hit a grand slam, and Joe Santos and Matteao Petruzziello each hit a pair of three-run homers.
“Since the Branford game, we have been hitting three or four home runs a game,” Jones said. “I did not expect it, but I am not surprised.”
Annex, which pulled off the upset of Orange in the quarterfinals, had no answer for the West Haven attack. Not only did the Westies finish with double digits in hits, they took advantage of four Annex errors.
“They are a good team,” Annex coach Sal Punzo said of West Haven. “They are a very good offensive team. We had no answer for them. We did not make any plays which did not help our pitchers. But, we pulled off a huge upset of Orange. I want these kids to remember that. It was an enjoyable season for us.”
West Haven set the tone of the game early, scoring twice in the first inning, then adding eight in the second and nine more in the third. Before Annex had gone through its lineup once, the top third of West Haven’s order had already come to bat four times.
“It feels really good to win this one,” Dan Izzo said after his grand slam in the third inning was the exclamation point in the win. “We look forward to playing more baseball. We have been hitting the ball well and playing like a team.”
West Haven took a 2-0 lead in the first inning off Annex starter Etahn Rouch when Christian Scanlon led off with a walk, Greg Baker reached on an error and Tyler Jones followed with a single to score Scanlon. Jones, who finished the game with two hits, scored on a wild pitch for the second run of the inning.
After West Haven starting pitcher Steve Baker retired Annex in the bottom of the first, West Haven blew the game open in the second, sending 11 batters to the plate and hitting two homers in the frame.
After Scanlon reached on an error to score Petruzziello, Greg Baker followed with a long 3-run homer to left for a 6-0 lead. Santos capped the inning with another long 3-run homer, scoring Steve Baker and Gianni Gambardella for a 10-0 advantage.
“We have been getting some really good hitting,” Greg Baker said. “We have been scoring a lot of runs and getting good pitching.”
If there was any question whether West Haven would return to the finals, it was answered in the third when the Westies sent 12 batters to the plate, hit three more home runs and scored nine times.
Izzo opened the floodgates in the inning with a grand slam, Petruzziello answered with a long three-homer to left center, and Baker hit his second homer of the game for two more runs.
While the 19 runs were impressive, the performance of Steve Baker on the mound was equally as good as he kept Annex off the scoreboard and did so within a 35-pitch limit, allowing him to be able to pitch in Saturday’s title game if Jones chooses.
Greg Baker relieved his brother with one out in the third and kept Annex without a run. The Baker brothers combined on a three-hitter, striking out six.
“It is nice to get a win like this,” Chris Jones said. “It is nice to get all the kids in and get some at bats. Steve Baker can also come back and pitch Saturday. Tonight could not have worked out any better for us.”