By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
With 2 outs in the top of the sixth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s Southern Connecticut Conference—Housatonic Division baseball game between Amity and Sheehan at Janenda Field in Woodbridge, the Spartans clung to a 1-0 lead.
Amity hurler Mike Concato had allowed only 1 hit, struck out 8, and had retired 17 of the 18 Titan batters he had faced. The 1 Sheehan base runner had been Sal Gozzo, who broke up Concato’s no-hitter with his fifth inning single. Brendan Gautier doubled into left center field to put the tying run in scoring position. Mike Kakalow followed by drilling the ball into center field. As Gauthier sprinted home with the game-tying run, the ball skipped through the legs of Spartan center fielder Sebastian DeMauro and rolled toward the center field fence. By the time DeMauro raced to retrieve the ball and throw it back to the infield, Kakalow was perched on third base. Concato avoided further damage by picking Kakalow off third base.
Spartan Coach Sal Coppola said, “Before their guy (Kakalow) got the hit that tied the game, we had 2 strikes on him. I thought Mike’s next pitch was a strike, which would have ended the inning and preserved our lead—but we didn’t get the call.”
The game was still tied at 1-1 when Sheehan came to bat in the top of the seventh. Once again he retired the first 2 batters he faced. After Gozzo drew a free pass, Matt Daniels (who had struck out in both of his previous at bats) singled, sending Gozzo around to third base. Matt Haskell, (who had also been fanned twice by Concato) ripped a shot that was too hot for first sacker Justin Ashworth to handle. It sailed past him into right field, sending Gozzo home with what proved to be the game-winning run.
The loss evens Concato’s record at 1-1. He gave up both runs on 4 hits, while whiffing nine and walking only 1. The 2-1 loss was Amity’s first set back of the spring and dropped its record to 3-1 (0-1 in Housy action). On the other side of the ledger, the win was Sheehan’s first in four outings and evened its Housy record at 1-1. Titan sources reported that this was the first time since 2003 that they had defeated Amity.
According to Coppola, “Mike (Concato) pitched really well, but maybe he was a little tired. It was the first time this spring that he had gone the full seven innings. He allowed only 1 earned run. Most coaches would gladly accept that any day of the week. He’s the guy we want on the mound in tough games, but today, I just left him out there too long. We had Max Richie and Sam Nepiarky throwing in the bull pen, but we only scored 1 run on 4 hits—2 after the first inning. We need to score more runs and make defensive plays to help Mike out. Today, we didn’t do that. There were 2 errors and we should have made both plays. Ash (Ashworth) is usually good with the glove. He just didn’t make that play. If he did make the play, the game is still tied 1-1. We’re coming to bat. The pressure is on Sheehan and we have a chance to leave them on the field.”
He added, “Give Sheehan credit. They got only four hits, but they were all clutch hits. On the other hand, we didn’t swing the bats hard. We hit about 10-11 weak fly ball outs. Our players have to be more aggressive with their bats. We want to hit the ball hard and on the ground, which forces them to make plays and hopefully, make a few errors.”
Winning pitcher Zach Hart went the distance allowing only 1 run on 4 hits, walking 1, striking out 4 and hitting a batter. Amity recorded its lone tally in the bottom of the first inning. Jake Russo slapped a 1-out single into center field and was immediately driven home on the front end of Anthony Capozziello’s two-bagger. Shortly thereafter he was erased, trying to steal third base with only 1 out.
Amity designated hitter Sean Beaulieu doubled with 1-out in the fifth inning but was left stranded on base as Hart retired the next 2 Amity batters he faced.
“Their pitcher wasn’t overpowering, but he did have a good fast ball. He had excellent location and was consistently hitting the corners. Toward the end of the game, he began to throw his curve ball for strikes. Still, this wasn’t our best day at the plate. It was not a typical Amity day with the bats,” Coppola said. “Forget about Sheehan’s 1-3 record. They have a good team but have played a tough schedule so far. In their first 3 games, they played Fairfield Prep, Xavier, and Foran–all really good teams. They’ve won 3 or 4 state championships in the last 12 years. By the end of the season, I bet their record will be at least 12-8 and they will make their usual run in Class MM. Of all the teams we have seen this spring, they are the best.”
On Monday, the Spartans visit Cheshire in another Housy contest that gets underway at 4 p.m.