Needing a win over Simsbury to advance in the American Legion play-in tournament, Milford Post 196 coach Cliff Bugyi handed the ball to ace right-hander Matt Ferraiolo on Sunday afternoon.
Ferraiolo, a recent Jonathan Law graduate, came through in a big way for the No. 17 seed 196ers, pitching a nine-inning no-hitter against 32nd-seeded Simsbury Post 84 in a 1-0 Milford victory at Foran High.
“Nine innings, you never know how the pitcher will perform,” Bugyi said, referring to the Legion state tournament’s nine-inning format rather than the customary seven innings during the regular season.
“He can definitely throw 120… He was going all the way.”
In the top of the ninth inning, with Milford clinging to a 1-0 edge on the strength of Sean Cameron’s fifth-inning RBI single, Ferraiolo retired the first two Simsbury batters on a grounder back to the mound and fly out to Nick Pinto in right field.
That brought Post 84’s lead-off batter Nick Quattro to the plate. Quattro, one of two Simsbury hitters to reach base on Ferraiolo, worked out a two-out walk.
The next batter, E.J. Lavoie, hit a soft grounder to third base, which Ed Michaud fielded and fired across the diamond to Shawn Carigilio for the final out.
Ferraiolo threw 114 pitches to paint his masterpiece and faced just two batters over the minimum, striking out nine and walking three. He induced 12 groundball outs and yielded one hard-hit ball.
It came when Quattro led off the game with a sharp line drive toward second base.
Kyle Winters looked to have a bead on it, but the ball ticked off of his glove for an error.
That ended up being the extent of Simsbury’s threats, as Ferraiolo struck out Lavoie, Joe Zanghi threw out Quattro attempting to steal second, and Ferraiolo’s mound counterpart Matt Quintana grounded out to Winters.
“I thought it was going to be a long day,” said Ferraiolo, who lost a 2-0 pitchers’ duel against New London in the play-in round last year. “They hit a couple of balls hard in the first inning. After that, I settled down.”
Using an arsenal of four-seam fastballs, two-seamers, curves and changeups, Ferraiolo kept Post 84 off balance.
Aside from the first inning and the ninth, the only other frame he allowed baserunners in was the top of the fourth.
Quattro drew a lead-off walk, before Lavoie popped out. Zanghi again caught Quattro trying to steal second and Quintana followed with a walk.
But, Ferraiolo caught Andrew Girard looking on a called third strike, keeping Simsbury off the scoreboard.
Milford (19-6) scratched across the only run it needed in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Christian Baglini started the inning with a hard grounder toward the hole between third base and shortstop. He was robbed of a base hit though, as Simsbury third baseman Dakota Hunter made a spectacular diving stop and threw to first to get the out.
However, Post 196 wasn’t done yet.
After Taylor Biagioni grounded back Quintana, Pinto beat out an infield single and stole second.
Cameron delivered a run-scoring single that veered inside the first-base bag and rolled down the line.
“That’s part of the game,” Bugyi said of the two-out uprising. “You have to execute in big games like this.”
Together, Pinto and Cameron combined for four of Milford’s five hits off of Quintana, who struck out seven and walked two in a complete-game effort.
Michaud notched Post 196’s only other hit, a one-out double in the sixth inning that glanced off of the glove of diving Simsbury center fielder Blair Zentek.
Quintana stranded him there, sandwiching a pop out from Zanghi and a comebacker from Jake Saley around a two-out walk to Cariglio.
Milford defeated 16th-seeded Enfield, 9-1, in the American Legion state tournament at Fermi High on Monday.
With the win, the locals advance to the Round of 16 Tournament that begins on Saturday.
Cody Hadden pitched a three-hitter and struck out five.
Milford will play Cheshire at 12:30 on Saturday at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford.