BRANFORD – The last two summers were lean by Branford standards.
But now Post 83 is back at the top of the Zone 2 American Legion baseball standings.
After winning or tying for the zone title for six consecutive summers, Branford finished fourth and seventh, respectively, in 2016 and 2017. After sweeping Stratford last weekend, Branford remained perfect in four games with a 9-0 victory over East Haven Wednesday night at George T. Dummar Jr. Field.
“We’re playing really well,” Branford coach Kyle Heins said. “The goal is to win the zone since it’s a huge advantage in the state tournament. I’m confident our team will put a product on the field that will do some damage.”
It took a while for Post 83 to do just that Wednesday night as Alphonse Suppa was in a pitcher’s duel with Frank Longley of East Haven. Suppa allowed a hit in the first inning and that was the only baserunner either team was able to muster until the top of the fourth inning.
After retiring the first two batters, Suppa had trouble finding the strike zone, walking two hitters, then Anthony Buffone singled as the 89ers loaded the bases. However, Suppa got A.J. Maggiore to ground out to end the inning.
“I got into a little trouble in that inning,” Suppa said. “Once I got some runs, it calmed me down a little. My velocity wasn’t there tonight, but I was able to hit my spots.”
Longley had been perfect through three innings, but ran into trouble right away in the bottom of the fourth. He walked Damien Maniscalco to lead off the inning. After Nikko Liguori grounded into a fielder’s choice, Zach Withington laced a RBI double to left center and then Suppa followed with a run-scoring single to almost the same spot to make it 2-0.
Ligouri singled in a run in the fifth to make it 3-0 before Post 83 broke the game wide open in the sixth inning with six runs and chased Longley. In that inning, Zane Kmietek had a two-run double, Withington singled in a pair of runs and Ligouri walked to force in another run.
Meanwhile, Suppa allowed only one runner past second base in six innings and yielded to Matt Judd, who retired the side in order in the seventh.
“Suppa was great,” Heins said. “He throws hard and pitches to contact. Our pitching staff is where it needs to be and Suppa is a big piece of the puzzle.”
East Haven, which was swept in a three-game series by North Haven last weekend, fell to 0-4.
“We’re playing two of the better teams in the zone,” East Haven coach John Longley said. “We had a couple opportunities tonight, and we hit the ball hard, but right at them. A couple tough breaks.”
BRANFORD 9, EAST HAVEN 0
EAST HAVEN 000 000 0 – 0 2 0
BRANFORD 000 216 X – 9 9 0
Records: East Haven, 0-4. Branford, 4-0. Batteries: EH – Frank Longley, John Ruggiero (6) and Anthony Buffone. B – Alphonse Suppa, Matt Judd (7) and Rob Barbash. 2B: B – Zach Withington, Zane Kmietek. RBI – Withington 3, Kmietek 2, Ligouri 2, Suppa. Winning pitcher: Suppa. Losing pitcher: Longley.