Pitcher Austin Pokluda throws one out in the first game of Saturday’s double header.
By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
Spectacular pitching has been the early season key to success for Orange Post 127. On Thursday night, Nick Fusco (with 1 inning of relief help from Max Ritchie) tossed a 13-0 1-hit shutout at Post 196 of Milford.
In the first game of Saturday’s Brinley Field double header against North Haven Post 76, Austin Pokluda threw only 85 pitches as he recorded 3-0 no-hitter (in which he struck out 7 batters and walked only 2).
The second game of the twin bill saw Sam Nepiarsky need only 62 pitches in his 3-0 2-hitter. He walked x and whiffed 6).
Pitcher Sam Nepiarsky shows his winning form in game two of Saturday’s double header.
Those two games combined last less than 3 hours. Orange pitchers have now thrown 3 consecutive shutouts and chalked up 20 scoreless innings during which they have given up only 3 hits! Post 127 is now 6-1 with a total of 4 blankers in those 7 games and sits a game behind first place Branford Post 83, which sports a glossy 7-0 record.
To make the double header sweep more impressive, it was done without the key bats of third baseman Keith Klebart and designated hitter Mike Concato in the lineup. They were playing in the New England Scholastic All Star Game, which was held at Tufts University in Medford, MA.
It is a baseball tradition that no one in the dugout talks to a pitcher that is throwing a no-hitter. The potential no-hitter is never mentioned. Despite that unwritten baseball rule, Pokluda admitted that during the late innings, teammate Mike Appel kept teasing him about it. He also reported that he had thrown a no-hitter 2 years ago for the Orange Junior Legion team and added another hitless gem last summer against Hamden.
He added, “I knew I had a no-hitter starting in the fourth or fifth inning. Even though Mike was busting on me, I tried not to think about it. I had not pitched since I played fall ball at UConn. I didn’t get a lot of strike outs today. I was just trying to pitch to contact. I threw a lot of fast balls today with a few sliders and changes.”
Coach Bob Mirto said, “We are so happy that Austin chose to pitch for us this summer. He was a real master and very efficient on the mound today. He had very good command of his pitches, especially his change-up. Even when he got behind 2-0, he was able to come back and throw the ball past guys for strikes. That takes a lot of guts.”
Orange managed only 6 hits off North Haven losing pitcher John DeCusati. Gerald Ferace hammered a pair of doubles and 1 drove in a run. Matt Ronai also belted an RBI-2 bagger and Pokluda aided his own cause by spanking a run-scoring base hit.
According to Mirto, “Matt has gotten getting bigger and stronger as he matures and comes of age. In our last few games, he has really been ripping the ball. I think the most impressive thing I’ve seen from him was when he had 2 strikes and was looking for a curve ball. Their pitcher (DeCusati) had an excellent curve but he threw a fastball to Matt. He immediately adjusted and drilled a 1-hop RBI double to the fence. That’s not easy for any batter to do. It was an important at bat for Matt and for our team.”
Following 2 scoreless innings in the nightcap, Orange posted its first tally in the bottom of the third inning. With 1 out, Sean Beaulieu walked, stole second base, and scored on Ronai’s double into the left center field gap. An inning later, Pokluda (who played left field in the second game) walked, raced around to third on R.J. Moquet’s base hit, and scored on a wild pitch by Post 76 hurler, Melvin Santiago.
Another free pass got Santiago in trouble again in the bottom of the fifth inning. Once again Beaulieu drew a base on balls, stole second base, and raced home on a 2-base throwing error by DeCusati, the North Haven shortstop.
Nepiarsky’s only tough inning was the top of the first inning. He misplayed Mike DeRosa’s lead-off nubber and then served up a 1-out single to Chandler Anderson. Battling back with 2 runners on base, Nepiarsky got Vin Cretella on a foul pop-fly and then struck out Ryan Hargor. After giving up a 1-out third inning single to DeRosa, Nepiarsky the last 14 batters in a row—striking out 5 and allowing only 1 fly ball to reach the outfield.
“We had just enough offense to get by. Fortunately, Sam pitched an incredible game—throwing only 62 pitches and not walking a batter. We needed that kind of effort today as we were short-handed. Sam’s keys to success are his ability throw hard and to keep the ball down, where it is almost unhittable,” Mirto said.
He added, “With Mike Concato, Sam Nepiarsky, Nick Fusco, and Austin Pokluda as starters along with Dane Simone, Ross Weiner, Mark Kahlenback, and Max Ritchie also available as we need them, we have amazing pitching depth. I’ve never had a team with this much depth. These guys are all very efficient. They throw hard, get the ball over the plate, and don’t give up many walks. They throw strikes and let the defense do its job. Still, we are only a quarter way through the season. Let’s see if it lasts.”
Following its 2 losses, North Haven saw its record dip to 1-4.
Post 127 returns home Monday to host Milford Post 196 at 7 PM.