MERIDEN — When Grant Purpura was told he was getting the ball in the potential American Legion state championship clincher, he knew he would have to be on top of his game.
What he did not know was that he would have to toss a complete-game shutout in order to win.
Purpura fired seven scoreless innings, struck out seven and allowed just four hits to lead Stamford to a 1-0 win over Southington at Ceppa Field. His dominating performance earned him tournament MVP honors.
“That was my goal coming in,” Purpura said. “Before every game I tell myself my job is to throw up zero’s for my team, and that is what I did today. I knew we were facing a very good pitcher so I knew I needed to match him or be even better.”
Ryan Henderson was given the ball for Southington and matched Purpura through the first six innings.
Both starters found themselves in jams throughout the game, but were able to work out of trouble.
Henderson started the game off with back-to-back walks in the first inning. Both runners moved up on a ground out to second to put two runners in scoring position with one away. With the infield in, Henderson was able to get a ground out to shortstop where Noah Skaug was able to gun out the runner going home. He followed that up with a strikeout to escape the inning unscathed.
In the bottom of the fourth, Purpura was tested for the first time after a one-out walk and a single with an error put runners on second and third with one out. Similar to his counterpart, he avoided damage by getting a ground out nailing the runner at home followed by a strikeout, spoiling Southington’s best chance to score.
Henderson showed some magic in the fifth inning, recording a strikeout with two runners in scoring position and one out. After an intentional walk to load the bases, the next batter flew out to short right field before Henderson got the final out via the strikeout to keep the game scoreless.
The game’s lone run came in the top of the seventh when Stamford’s Jaden Dawkins led off the inning with a single, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and was driven in by a TJ Wainwright single.
Purpura took the mound again in the bottom of the 7th to finish what he started. After surrendering a two-out double, Purpura induced a fly out to right field and sent his team into celebration as state champions.
Both contests in the best-of-three series were close and decided late, with no runs being scored in the first five innings of either game. Southington only scored one run over both games.
In the tournament, Stamford’s pitching staff allowed just nine runs over five games. That staff will look to continue its dominance into the upcoming regional tournament.
Four other Stamford players joined Purpura on the All-Tournament team. Catcher Joseph Skarad, first baseman Joseph Gambino and oufielders Reid Gesualdi and Jaden Dawkins all earned spots for their performances.