Amity baseball wins third straight SCC championship

WEST HAVEN >> You come at the king, you best not miss, and although Fairfield Prep scored a pair of runs in the top of the first, it had a chance Saturday afternoon to get more before Amity starting pitcher Teddy Hague wriggled his way out of the jam.

By the time their first turn at bat was over in the bottom of the inning, the top-seeded Spartans had the lead and never relinquished it, winning their third straight Southern Connecticut Conference baseball title, 11-5 over the No. 2 Jesuits at West Haven High’s Piurek Field.

“Obviously, it’s a different game if we can put a little more pressure on them early by scoring a few more runs,” Fairfield Prep coach Rudy Mauritz said. “But we couldn’t get the big hit and we know Amity is a great team.”

For most teams, wins in the postseason can be difficult to string together, but this marked Amity’s 24th straight, its last loss coming in the 2014 SCC championship game (to Xavier). The Spartans (21-2) will begin their quest for a fifth straight Class LL title Tuesday as the top seed against Norwich Free Academy.

Fairfield Prep — which suffered half its regular season losses to Amity as well — grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a Will Lucas RBI single, and a couple of uncharacteristic defensive lapses by Amity, but the Jesuits (18-5) left two runners in scoring position.

Prep would leave 12 on in the first five innings, and after scoring three in the first, the Spartans busted the game open in the third inning, sending 12 batters to the plate and scoring seven times on just three hits thanks to six Prep walks and a hit batsman. After a pair of bases-loaded walks made it 5-2, Rohan Patel got the big hit of the frame by slicing a two-run single to right field. Amity would score three more times, as Prep needed three pitchers to finally get three outs, but not before it was 10-2. The Jesuits made it 10-4 in the fourth, but left the bases loaded again, and Ben Lodewick — Amity’s third pitcher — finally put an end to the chaos with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief, good enough to earn him the win.

With both teams having one eye on the Class LL tournament, at least as far as pitching restrictions go, the contest featured nine pitchers and 17 walks (as well as two hit batsmen).

“If you can win the SCC, that’s something to be proud of, no matter how many times you’ve done it, because we still believe this is the toughest conference in the state,” Amity coach Sal Coppola said. “It’s tough because with the new pitching restrictions, you could see both teams were a little off today, but we came through it.”

Matt Zaffino hit a long home run and was never retired, going 3-for-3 with two walks for Fairfield Prep, which will enter the Class LL tournament as the No. 5 seed and host Greenwich Tuesday. The Jesuits lost Lucas and Biaggio Paoletta — the hero of its semifinal win — to injuries during the game, although Mauritz is hopeful both will be ready for the Class LL opener.

Max Scheps was named SCC Player of the Year due in large part to his pitching exploits before the game, but has also had a great year with his bat, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs Saturday. Jack Nolan was the only other Amity player with multiple hits, going 2-for-2 with a triple and scoring three times. The Spartans only had eight hits in all, but made them count, leaving just four men on base.

“We have high intensity, but we’re also loose at the same time because if you tighten up, you don’t play the same baseball that we play,” Scheps said.

Amity has won 20 straight CIAC Tournament contests as well, last falling to Southington in the 2012 Class LL quarterfinals, when many of the current players were just starting middle school. The current kings will enter another state tournament as favorites, but won’t take anything for granted the next two weeks.

“We’ve won it four years in a row, so we know what we’re up against, but it’s not easy,” Coppola said. “If you have a bad day, you’re done.”