Baseball: Junior Legion off to 7-3 start

Getting high school-age pitchers to hit the strike zone may be comparable to getting them to adhere to a set schedule. That’s especially true in Connecticut American Legion Baseball’s Junior (17-and-under) division. When weekly pitch counts are thrown into the equation, it can become a nightmarish situation for coaches.

Milford American Legion 196 junior coach Mike Merchant is always addressing the dilemma and continues to work on it. Last Thursday night, however, 10 walks given up by four different pitchers and a pair of two-run doubles by North Haven Post 76 were enough to help the visitors take a 7-3 decision at Ken Walker Field.

The night before, Post 196 defeated North Haven, 6-5, on the road. North Haven’s win evened the series at a game each as each team had completed eight games, or one-third of its regular season, following the Thursday night contest.

“I’ve got plenty of pitchers,” Merchant said. “Obviously, walks got us in trouble tonight. We had done a great job of getting ahead of hitters until this game. Tonight, we dug ourselves a hole early on, especially in those first two innings.”

Under Legion rules, a pitcher can throw up to 105 pitches in a game. If he succeeds 76, however, he must be rested for four days.

Milford fell behind 2-0 after the first inning, as starter Nick Lombardo (27 pitches) walked the first three batters he faced and four in all. He was charged with three runs and gave way to Chris Goglia in the second.

Goglia gave up a two-run double to Matt Soma in the second and another two-base hit to Steve Erbe in the fourth. By then Milford trailed, 6-1.

Post 196 got a run in the first, thanks to some wild pitching by North Haven starter Andrew Ludano. He walked three with the first recipient, Mark Wooten eventually scoring in an errant pitch by Ludano. Wooten had stolen second and had moved over to third on a ground out by Dylan LaRoche.

Milford put together its most productive inning in the sixth, stringing together three hits, all singles by Kevin Lanese, Nate Merchant and Mark Germanese. Post 196’s first run in the frame came in after Shane McCone hit into a fielder’s choice and the second was recorded on Wooten’s sacrifice fly to right.

North Haven held on as Lawrence Luca came on in the seventh as Post 83’s fourth pitcher and retired the side.

“Last night we were unable to get a big hit, we never hit anything into the gaps,” said North Haven co-head coach Pete Civitello (he works along with Pete Katynski). “Tonight, it was a different story. Our philosophy is we want to get good, accurate pitching and play sound defense. Once we get a lead, we want to be able to hold on to it.”

Goglia finished with 60 pitches and was followed by Matt Boath (16 pitches) and Chris Schuld (33 pitches).

Milford outhit North Haven, 5-3.

“Other than those, two gap hits, they didn’t hit much off of us tonight,” Merchant said. “We weren’t crisp with our bats, however. We hit squeakers.”

After sweeping a series against New Haven by 4-0 and 7-1 scores, Post 196 improved their record to 7-3.

“What we want to be able to do is to do is turn this group of 17U players into a premier program,” Merchant said. “To make it one of the best in the Zone two.”