WEST HARTFORD >> The West Hartford Post 96 American Legion baseball team beat Newington to give itself a shot at a title and then got some help from Newington to make it a reality.
Post 96 finished hot and RCP Post 105 stumbled down the stretch resulting in the two teams sharing the 2014 Zone 7 title.
Both teams finished the season at 17-4 but the difference was in how they got there. West Hartford won its last four games and went 8-2 in its last 10. Post 96 beat Newington in its regular-season finale and then needed Newington to knock off RCP to earn a share of the title.
Newington obliged and ended the regular season with a win over RCP, the defending Zone 7 champs. Newington actually beat RCP three times in the final week of the season to set West Hartford up for a share of the title.
Playing good baseball down the stretch and good camaraderie, which was evident all season long, helped propel Post 96 to the title.
“The chemistry we had was the best it has been in many years,” Post 96 assistant coach Sean McCann said. “Being co-champs is a result of that and another example is that no player was ever late for a practice or pre-game. They enjoyed being around each other playing ball and I could not be any prouder of a group of young men than this one.”
Post 96 also got a boost during the season from Will Cook, a college freshmen, who took a role of player/coach because Post 96 needed him in that role but as the season progressed.
“Cookie got his legs and timing back and began playing some innings. He sacrificed a lot for his teammates by taking this role, which indicates the type of young man he is,” McCann said. “He always put his brothers ahead of himself and got the earned respect from every single person in that dugout because of it. A life lesson taught by a 19-year-old.”
As the state tournament started West Hartford’s winning run came to an end in a tough 2-1 loss to Terryville in 10 innings. Jordan Muchin pitched all 10 innings for Post 96 and allowed just three hits but the Post 96 offense wasn’t able to generate much at the plate.
Post 96 committed errors in the fifth and 10th and both times it led to runs for Terryville, one on a sacrifice and the other on a fielders choice.
Danny Roth, Neil Kelley and Greenfield all played well in the field against Terryville for Post 96.
Offensively we didn’t have very good at bats the first time through the order – nerves and getting adjusted to the pitcher seemed to be the cause. We made some hard outs and it seemed the ball couldn’t find a hole anywhere.
Alex White singled and scored on a ground out by Henry Fracasso. Post 96 had a few more opportunities with runners in scoring position but could not get the timely hit all teams need in a tight tournament game.
Despite the loss Post 96 finished the season with plenty to be proud of.
“The message after the game was consistent from Coach Lane, Sanford, and myself. You guys set a goal, worked extremely hard at each step to reach that goal, showed character through adversity and stayed together while doing so, and you were successful because of it,” McCann said.
Danny Nunes, Reid Collins, and Will Cook are moving on and McCann said Post 96 and the coaching staff thank them and wish them continued success moving forward.