Orange was ready for its third showdown with Branford this year, having gone 0-2 in the previous games. At home on June 19, Orange had nothing going for them, and they ultimately fell 6-0 in a game pitched by Ross Weiner. And more recently, they fell 4-0 to Branford on Monday night.
So, tonight, they wanted revenge. Nick Fusco was on the mound for Post 127, and he got off to a sour start, giving the rival Branford a quick 2-0 advantage.
In the top frame of the 2nd inning, shortstop Josh Sabitsky made an incredible play ranging to his knees and firing to first baseman Chris Winkel for the out. Third baseman Matt Ronai was caught leaning and was picked off trying to steal second in Orange’s half of the second inning.
Ronai caught a bullet in the top of the third inning. Clearly, the power of the Ronai family was alive and well for Post 127. Or, so we thought. With the locally famous father Jim Ronai looking on in the stands, his younger son also bit the caught stealing bug. Brian Ronai was caught trying to steal second in the very next inning.
Moving forward to the top of the 4th inning, Branford still held to their 2-0 lead. Fusco settled down from there.
Orange’s next big chance to put their first run on the board came in the bottom of the fifth inning, with one man on and Devin Belenski heading to the plate, but, oh, it was to no avail. Later, shortstop Josh Sabitsky was back, this time in the batter’s box. The shortstop was batting with two on in scoring position, and a single was all Post 127 needed. Orange put their first run up on the scoreboard (Note: the actual scoreboard doesn’t run for the game).
In the bottom of the sixth inning, future University of Hartford center fielder and pitcher, and Orange’s leadoff hitter Sebastian DiMauro got to first base safely after his hit got past Branford’s third baseman.
DiMauro, also known as a base stealer, he did just that. Almost without a second thought, he was now standing on second base. Orange tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, and it remained that way as the game went into extra innings.
Just like high school, Legion plays seven innings of regulation. This one, however, needed more. The top of the eighth was just when Fusco’s night was done. In a shaky start, he still had managed to control his pitches, and in the end the two runs he gave up were only early on in the first inning.
DiMauro came on to pitch, and got locked into one of his usual zones, there was no problem for the all-around baseball star.
Branford’s fans continued to rave in their section, just as they had done the last time they attended Brinley Field, in their aforementioned 6-0 rout on June 19.
In the top of the ninth inning, Matt Ronai had another thing to do: dodge a broken bat. Sabitsky and Ronai were up with good situations in the bottom of the ninth, but nothing could happen.
Post 127 remained deadlocked at 2-2 heading to the top of the 10th inning. In the third frame of extra innings, Branford grabbed a 3-2 lead and Orange’s fans were heartbroken.
What a game, and what a comeback late only to come up short in a game that ended with the lights on at a now mostly bare Old Tavern Park. When the game started, the place was abuzz with summer baseball and softball all-star teams, but when the legion game ended, it was dark, it was quiet, and Orange was 0-3 against Zone II rival Branford.
Coaches Bob Mirto and Bill Butler weren’t proud of this one’s ending. Still, Orange has on overall record at 12-4, and is 4 games behind undefeated (16-0) Branford.
This weekend, Post 127 celebrates the 4th of July in a tournament in Rhode Island. Then, it’s back Sunday for a doubleheader in East Haven.