Milford’s Matt Ferraiolo caught Connor Doyle looking at a 3-2 pitch that caught the outside corner to end a 10-pitch battle to leave the bases loaded with Avon players in the bottom of the ninth inning, when coach Cliff Bugyi’s 13th-seeded Post 196 team advanced to the American Legion state championship game with a 4-1 victory at Muzzy Field in Bristol on Tuesday night.
Milford defeated Greenwich earlier in the day, 2-0, and is the last team standing in the winner’s bracket with a 4-0 record since the Round of 16 Tournament opened on Saturday.
Oakville, RCP, Avon and Greenwich will battle through loser’s bracket games to gain the spot opposite Milford set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Muzzy Field. The if game is Saturday at 11 a.m.
Post 196 won a pair of play-in games, and with six straight victories, they improved their overall record to 24-6.
“Taylor Biagoni gave us everything we needed,” Bugyi said of his right-hander, who held Avon to one run on five hits through seven innings. “We were looking for a way to save Matt [Ferraiolo] for as long as possible.”
Ferraiolo gave up a leadoff single in the eight before he set down three straight batters, two on strikes.
In the ninth, a 3-2 walk to start the frame and a hit batter after a strikeout, brought the potential tying run to the plate in Nick Sanderson.
Ferraiolo blew three pitches past the lefty-swinger for the second out, but then walked Liam O’Connor on a 3-2 pitch.
Doyle stepped in and the epic battle ensued, with Ferraiolo just missing on a couple of pitches on the outside corner, and Avon’s No. 2 batter fouling off five pitches in all.
Ferraiolo brought his outside fastball in a few inches closer to get the call to win the game.
“Matt was right there [on the black] and wouldn’t give in,” Milford catcher Joe Zanghi said.
“And Taylor was right on the money with his split-finger curve. He spotted it well all game.”
Milford scored two runs in the second inning when Sean Cameron delivered a clutch two-run single with two outs.
Jake Saley singled to lead it off and Christian Baglini, who had three hits and made some great plays at shortstop, bunted him into scoring position.
Ferraiolo, the designated hitter, worked O’Connor for a walk before Cameron slapped a pitch from the left-hander to right field for two RBIs.
Saley led off the fourth with a double to the gap in right-center and Baglini drove the first pitch he saw to the fence up the same alley to make it 3-0.
From there, Milford built another run, as Ferraiolo hit the ball to the right side to move Baglini to third, where he scored on Nick Pinto’s sacrifice fly to center.
“It helped me that Matt was on fire in the eight spot,” Pinto said of his day, which included three hits in the win over Greenwich. “The team dynamic here is huge.”
Biagoni pounded the strike zone in his 96-pitch outing.
“With wooden bats you just want to pitch to contact,” said Biagoni, who won for the second time this summer.
“I was a little nervous to start [knowing the winning team would get two days off], but we were having fun out there and I just let my defense play.”
For the second straight game, Milford didn’t make an error and stranded nine baserunners.
Baglini, who had five assists and a putout, said, “I think a lot of this has to do with that 15-inning win [over Branford]. We began to relax and it gave us a feeling that someone was going to have to beat us to knock us out.”
Kyle Winters and Saley had two hits each, and Ed Michaud, Zanghi, Cameron and Shawn Cariglio (double) completed the 11-hit attack.