ORANGE — North Haven Post 76 knew what it needed to do when the team headed to Brinley Field in Orange Thursday evening.
After sweeping a doubleheader against Orange Post 127 in the final at bat in both games of a doubleheader on Wednesday, North Haven eliminated Orange from postseason contention, and set itself up for a possible second place finish in Zone II.
Controlling its own destiny with a win, Post 76 seized its opportunity. With a combined three-hitter from four different pitchers, Post 76 took care of business by defeating Orange 4-0, clinching second place in Zone II, and securing a home game on Saturday when the American Legion postseason gets underway.
“This is my third year with the program,” North Haven coach Tim Binkoski said after his team wrapped up a 16-5 regular season and finished in front of Branford for the second spot in the zone. “We were 10-12 in the first year and I believe 12-9 last year. It is nice to be able to finish 16-5. Some games we lost were well fought and could have gone either way. Like we just told them, 16-5 has gotten us to where we are right now. Now, it is a new season and we need to take it one game at a time and not look past what is in front of us.”
Behind three innings of one-hit ball from Luca Lawrence, a solid inning apiece from Tom Myjak and Zack Pincince, and two impressive one-hit innings from Brendan Clark, North Haven shut down Orange’s offense. With Post 76 taking a 3-0 lead after two innings of play, the pitching had more than enough run support.
“We just did not hit,” Orange coach Joe Pisano said. “We knew that at the beginning of the year. For the most part, we pitched well all year. We just could not put enough runs together.”
North Haven scored the only run it would need in the first inning as Pincince led off with a walk against Orange starter Jared Smith, Hunter Garthwait followed with a bunt single, and Clark walked to load the bases.
After a fielder’s choice, Dave Christoforo plated the first run when his sacrifice fly to left scored Garthwait for a 1-0 lead.
Post 76, which finished behind Hamden on top of the zone, expanded the lead to three runs in the second as Dan Cannavaciolo and Myjak opened the inning with singles, and both advanced on a ground out by Christian Somma. Pincince drove in Cannavaciolo with a sacrifice fly to left, and Garthwait doubled to center to score Myjak for a 3-0 lead.
“We do a lot of things,” Binkoski said. “We move runners over. We put guys in motion. We bunt. That comes into play because sometimes you are not going to be able to string three hits together. We manufacture runs.”
With the three-run cushion, North Haven was in good hands as Lawrence allowed only one hit and struck out three over the first three innings of play, Myjak followed by allowing just one hit, and Pincince pitched a scoreless fifth. Clark then sealed the victory with five strikeouts in the final two innings.
“We have our pitching lined up to where we want it going into the first game on Saturday,” Binkoski said after spreading out the innings on the hill against Orange.
Alex Page knocked in the final run of the game in the fifth inning when his sacrifice fly drove in Steven Erbe, who had reached on an error to start the frame.
Smith started for Orange and went four-plus innings, allowing four runs on five hits. Marc Chodos finished, and did not allow a hot in the final three innings of work.
North Haven 4, Orange 0
NORTH HAVEN 120 010 0 — 4 5 0 (16-5)
ORANGE 000 000 0 — 0 3 3 (12-9)
N: Luca Lawrence, Tom Myjak (4), Zack Pincince (5), Brendan Clark (6) and Steven Erbe and Dave Christoforo. O: Jared Smith, Marc Chodos (5) and Logan Corris