Baseball: Senior Legion built for long haul

The Milford Post 196 Senior American Legion 19U baseball team started the season with three consecutive victories before dropping four straight decisions.

Manager Cliff Bugyi’s team blanked non-zone rival Berlin 1-0 to open the campaign. Post 196 then dispatched Hamden by scores of 4-3 and 1-0 on Saturday, before losing the third game of the series to Post 88 by a count of 5-4 on Sunday.

North Haven won a three-game series from the locals, with a doubleheader sweep (1-0 and 5-3) on Saturday and a 4-3 victory on Sunday.

Milford, North Haven and Hamden all have three wins in Zone II. Stratford and Branford are 5-1. Milford will play three games with New Haven, before taking on Branford this weekend. Post 83 will host Milford for a doubleheader at the high school on Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m. Branford travels to Ken Walker Field at Foran High on Sunday at 10 a.m.

“I like the mix of this team,” said Bugyi, who is assisted by Denis Haley. “I’d always get comments — ‘You got Foran kids or you got Law kids.” It doesn’t bother me. I went to Law and coached at Foran, what do I care. I just try to play the best players we can and try to protect them too.

“Adam Antonini wanted to go today (in relief in the 5-4 loss to Hamden). I got him through one hundred pitches the other day (4-3 win over Hamden). He’s not pitching again until the weekend.

“By playing every day you always worry about your pitching. We’ve had some very good performances and have been playing very good defense. Occasionally you’re going to make an error, especially at this level. That’s part of the game. The kids play hard and that’s all we can expect.”

Leading the Post 196 pitching staff are Antonini, Jeremiah Bravo, Evan Carolla, Chris Goglia, Rob Griswold, Ryan Muir, Ryan Tonelli, Mark Wooten and Brian Wydra.

Nick Tuozzola and Muir, and possibly Tom Marchitto, will handle catching duties.

Griswold, J.T. Lanese, Bryan Firmender, Wydra, Carolla, Mac Taylor (designated hitter), Wooten and Muir play the infield positions.

Brett Huber, Colin Firmender, John Leichteig, Nathan Merchant and Goglia are outfielders.

Lanese had a two-run triple in the 4-3 win over Hamden. Carollo did the pitching and Bravo knocked in the deciding run in the 1-0 win.

“It’s nice to see the kids meld together,” Bugyi said. “It’s not always the high school position they played, but the position we need them to play and there have been no problems at all. We’re feeling our way a little bit,but they are all accomplished players.”

When asked about the pitching depth, Bugyi said, “I don’t like our depth as much as I’d like. We have a couple of kids that aren’t playing this year. Our frontliners are fine. Colin (Firmender) is going to throw a little bit and Brian (Wydra) threw today (against Hamden), but it was like a bullpen day for him anyway. I like the mix with our Junior guys (Merchant, Goglia and Wooten).”

Milford jumped in front of East Haven 2-0 in the top of the first inning on Sunday.

Huber, Lanese and Griswold had three straight singles to make it 1-0. A two-out error on Nick Tuozzola’s grounder plated the second run. Lanese started a 4-6-3 double play turned by Griswold to Wydra at first base to get out of a home first jam.

Leichteig made his third outstanding grab in three games when he tracked down a foul ball in left field after Hamden put two runners on aboard in the second. Bravo then struck out the next two batters.

Hamden scored three runs on three hits and three walks in the third, before Bravo got the third out on a grounder to Griswold to leave the bases loaded. Milford went in front 4-3 in the sixth. Griswold singled with one out, Colin Firmender walked and both scored when Tuozzola hustled down the line and the shortstop’s hurried throw was off the mark.

Hamden tied the game at 4-4 in the home sixth and won it in the eighth.