Orange Live Sports Writer
With 2 outs in the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s American Legion Zone 2 championship showdown between Branford Post 83 and Post 127 of Orange, at Brinley Field, the game was deadlocked at 2-2. Branford’s Alex Pentani was camped on second base after his lead off infield single and a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Chris Stankiewicz.
Kyle Hart stroked a hopper that sailed over the shoulder of Orange second baseman Jake Russo and into center field and Pentani raced home with what proved to be the winning run in Branford’s 3-2 win over Post 127. With the victory in the first of their key 3-game series, Branford’s record improved to 21-1 while Orange dipped to 17-3. The same 2 teams met tonight in Branford at 5:45 PM in the second game of the series and then return to Brinley Field Thursday night at 7 in the series finale.
“This was a tough loss, but the game was just what I had expected,” Post 127 Coach Bob Mirto said. “I had a feeling that the team that played the best defense, would win.”
After 3 scoreless innings, Post 83 right fielder Nick Perrelli ripped a shot that shortstop Keith Klebart found too hot to handle. Pitcher Ben Criscuolo stepped in and took matters into his own hands as he and lined a Same Nepiarsky pitch over the left center field fence to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Following Criscuolo’s 2-run blast, Tyler Forgione walked and Standewicz stroked a 2-out single, but Nepiarsky avoided further damage by retiring Tyler Criscuolo on an inning-ending ground ball to second base.
Branford blew a golden opportunity to grab an early lead, loading the bases with no out of in the top of the second inning but failed to score a run. Consecutive base hits by Perrelli and Ben Criscuolo followed by a free pass to Greg Zullo loaded the bases. Nepiarsky retired Forgione on a fly ball to shallow right field and then got Pentani to bang into an inning-ending double play.
Still hitless and trailing 2-0 when it came to bat in the bottom of the fifth, Orange came to life when R.J. Moquet drew a lead-off walk, Justin Ashworth spanked a base hit up the middle, and Mike Appel walked to fill the bases with no one out. When Ben Criscuolo also gave Paul Gusmano a base on balls, he forced home Moquet with Post 127’s first run. Sean Beaulieu topped infield roller that he beat out, sent Ashworth home with the game-tying tally.
With the bases still loaded with no one out, Orange hopes for a bigger inning soon faded as Klebart was retired on an infield pop-fly and Jake Russo raped into an inning-ending twin killing.
According to Mirto, “Both teams had no out and the bases loaded but failed to score, but I think ours was tougher to take. We had just come back to tie the game and still had the bases loaded but failed to do a thing with that opportunity.”
With a deep sigh he added, “Tomorrow is another day,”
Nepiarsky (now 4-1) went the distance and is charged with the loss. He gave up 3 runs (2 earned runs) on 6 hits, walking 4 Branford batters and striking out 2.The victory ups Criscuolo’s mark to 5-0 as he was charged with 2 runs on only 2 hits. He whiffed 5 and walked 6 Orange batters.
“Sam threw a good game, but we won’t win many games getting only 2 hits.” Mirto added.