By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Legion Pitcher Austin Pokluda
Following the postponement of the first 3 games of the regular season, The Orange Post 127 American Legion baseball team finally launched its 2012 season Thursday night at Brinley Field. It was a brilliant launch to the season as Austin Pokluda not only defeated West Haven Post 71 2-1, he did not allow a base hit.
According to Pokluda, “From the fourth inning on, I knew I had a no-hitter but I tried to keep it out of my mind. The guys talked to me on the bench but nobody talked about me working on a no-hitter. We were more concerned about us not hitting the ball.”
While Pokluda was holding Post 71 hitless, his teammates managed only 2 hits off West Haven hurler Tyler Gambardella over the first 5 innings and trailed 1-0.With 1 out in the top of the first inning, Alex Palmeri walked, moved over to second base on a fielding error by Orange shortstop Nick Baviello and came around to score on Wes Gambardella’s fielder’s choice.
Thanks to Tyler Gambardella’s clutch West Haven clung to that slim lead for 5 innings. R.J. Moquet singled with 2 outs in the bottom of the third inning and Adam Kyasky did the same thing with 2 outs in the bottom of the fifth.
After not having a runner reach second base during the first five innings, the Post 127 bats finally showed signs of life in the bottom of the sixth. Chris Katz led off by beating out a bunt that he rolled down the third base line. Mark Boland’s sacrifice bunt moved Katz up a base. With 2 outs, Katz swiped third base and raced home on Paul Gusmano’s game-tying 2-strike double past third base and down the left field. Following Ted Ballou’s base hit, Gusmano scored on an error by Palmeri, the West Haven shortstop.
Now leading 2-1, Pokluda quickly set the visitors down in order in the top of the seventh and put his no-hitter into the books. In addition to holding West Haven (now 0-2) hitless, the UConn-bound Amity senior struck out 6 and walked only 1 batter. He allowed only three balls out of the infield—all easy fly balls that were snared by right fielder, Ballou, in the final 2 innings.
“ Austin pitched only 1 game for us last summer and that was in Rhode Island . He wasn’t as polished as he is now, but we saw that he threw hard, had good control, and was cool as a cucumber. For the most part, he worked out of the bullpen this spring for Amity, but he did start and was the winning pitcher against Shelton (the eventual CIAC Class LL state champs) in the SCC championship game,” Coach Bob Mirto said. “Tonight he threw only 80 pitches and proved that good things happen when you consistently throw strikes.”
He added, “Their pitcher kept us off balance with sliders and knuckle balls. For the first 4 innings we couldn’t hit the ball. Starting in the fifth inning, (our third time through the batting order) we got used to him, settled in, and began to hit the ball hard when he got it up in the strike zone. Our offense wasn’t explosive tonight but we did what we had to do to win the game. I liked seeing how we came from behind to win. It always feels good to open the season with a victory. This is a good team and the most experienced team I’ve ever had. They work hard and are focused on winning.”
Pokluda admitted that he has one style of pitching when he comes on in relif and another style when he is the starter.
He said, “When I come on in relief, I mostly concentrate on throwing my 2-seam fast ball hard. As a starter, I use more of my pitches (fastball, curve, and change. Tonight I began experimenting with a slider and tried hard to hit my spots more.”
The 1-0 Mirtomen return to Zone 2 action tonight with a 7 P.M. contest at Hamden Post 88 ( Hamden High School .) On Saturday, they visit West Haven in a 10 AM contest at Piurek Field ( West Haven High School .)
See our Orange Live Facebook Page for all photos.
Chris Katz steps up to the plate.