Foran baseball continues miraculous run to state final

HARTFORD >> Two outs and no one on doesn’t usually lead to a productive inning.

Then again, losing 11 of your first 12 games in a season doesn’t usually lead to a trip to the state championship game.

For Foran, there doesn’t seem to be any obstacle it can’t overcome right now.

The Lions kept up their miracle run through the Class L state tournament on Wednesday, roaring past Watertown 10-5 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park to advance to the championship game for the first time since 1974. They’ll face No. 7 seed North Haven on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown in an all-Southern Connecticut Conference matchup.

Not bad for a team that began the season 1-11, finished 7-13 and qualified for the Class L tourney as the No. 32 and final seed thanks to a tiebreaker.

“This is awesome,” said senior David Payne. “Coming from where we started, 1-11, to be here, it’s incredible. You can’t make this stuff up.”

How have the Lions made this miracle turnaround so quickly?

“Ten seniors,” sixth-year coach Garrett Walker simply noted. “I have 10 seniors that are four-year members of the program. When things don’t go their way, they can do something about it. They stepped in, they’re gonna impose their will a little bit, and we get to play another baseball game. That’s all I care about.”

No. 20 seed Watertown finished 14-10 overall.

As if to illustrate their ability to make something out of nothing, the Lions plated runs in the first and fifth innings with two outs and none on. Kevin Lanese’s RBI double was the big hit in the first, while Payne’s two-run single was the highlight of the fifth, when Foran rapped five straight hits with two outs.

It started with an infield single by Lanese, followed by an Anthony Turlis double. Payne drove them both home with his double to center field, and after a Mike Leson pinch-hit single, Payne scored on Angelo Simonelli’s double. The inning only ended when Watertown made a strong relay to get Leson trying to score from second.

“That’s kind of a little bit of our style,” said Walker. “We’re a come-from-behind, hit-with-two outs team. Whatever it is we shouldn’t be doing, we’re kind of doing right now.”

The big fifth put the Lions up 6-2, and they tacked on three more in the sixth. That was enough of a cushion to absorb Watertown homers by Justin Guerrera and Hayden Beauty (a two-run blast in the seventh). That would be all the damage the Indians would muster off Chris Goglia, who took over for starter Cody Hennequin in the third and twirled 4 1/3 innings of three-hit ball, walking two and striking out four.

And now, after a 1-11 start, it’s on to the Class L championship game.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Payne insisted. “I was saying from the beginning of the season, this is where we’re gonna be. We all made it our goal to be here.”

Added Walker: “We get to play another baseball game. It’s awesome that we get to play in the state championship, but we get to play another game with each other. That’s the biggest thing for us. One more game with the greatest group of kids I’ve ever been around.”