TRUMBULL — Another giant step forward.
The District 4 champion Max Sinoway Little League Baseball All-Stars from North Haven advanced to the Connecticut Section 1 tournament championship final Saturday morning by defeating District 1 champ Darien, 9-3 at Unity Park.
The win means that Sinoway (8-1 postseason, 2-0 Section 1 play) are in Monday’s Section 1 final at 5:30 p.m. at Unity Park. Sinoway will face the winner of Sunday’s 10 a.m. battle between Darien and District 2 champ Fairfield American for the Section 1 title and a berth in the Connecticut Little League baseball state tournament (four CT section champs) in Willimantic.
“The theme of our postgame talk was simple,” Max Sinoway manager Angelo Romano said. “Believe this! This is real! It is happening! Our job is to keep fighting together as a team.”
Sinoway’s second victory in a span of 17 hours was all about team. Defense, pitching and offense blended into a fist that kept Darien at bay.
Due to the early 10 a.m. start time, there was a breeze at Unity Park Diamond No. 1 that fought against the 90-degree temperatures.
Sinoway took a 5-0 edge in the top of the second. With one run in, one out and the bases loaded, Jaden Wells clubbed a grand slam homer on a 1-and-2 pitch.
“Being down in the count, I thought they would try to blow a fastball past me,” Wells said. “I got the bat barrel on it.”
To its credit, Darien answered with three runs in the bottom of the second inning off Sinoway starter Joe Mastroianni.
Tom Karczewski’s leadoff single, Ted Smosky’s HBP and Chase Dolan’s successful bunt loaded the bases. Jack Nee’s RBI groundout and Leo Zawacki’s two-out two-run double plated the runners.
Sinoway right-hander Mastroianni settled in thereafter. Darien managed two Taylor Campbell singles, one walk and one foul flyout over the next three innings.
Mastroianni (80 pitches, five innings) finished with five strikeouts including fanning the side on curves in the fifth.
“It was hot out there. But I’m used to it since I also play football,” Mastroianni said. “The plan was to let Darien hit the ball. And let our defense (no errors) work. The curve was the key. It’s a pitch I added this season.”
Sinoway settled the issue thanks to a pair of Chris Cretella RBI singles and a two-run, fifth-inning homer by Wells.
“I felt the pitcher was trying to get ahead in the count,” Wells said. “I was looking fastball in my zone. I squared it up just right on the bat.”
As for Darien, having four of its five pitchers Saturday throw 23 or fewer pitches, it will have arms available for Sunday’s battle with fabled Fairfield American (seven Connecticut State LL crowns since 2010).
The question for Sunday’s winner will be: Who is left to pitch on Monday?
“It’s a clean slate on Sunday. Win and you’re in Monday’s final,” Darien manager Wes Yusko said. “We know Fairfield American has history on its side. Our job is clear. Just win, period.”