East Haven bests Lawmen in state semifinals

The Jonathan Law baseball team saw its season come to a screeching halt in the semifinals of the Class L state tournament at Palmer Field in Middletown on June 10.

Masuk High, seeded No. 14, defeated second-seed Law, 7-2, behind the stellar pitching of sophomore Cameron Kovachik and timely two-out hitting that produced five of Masuk’s seven runs.

“You get to this point in the season, you dig yourself a little hole and the other team is a quality team, you’re going to find yourself with your backs to the wall,” Law coach Greg Simler said. “That’s what we had tonight.”

Notre Dame of West Haven defeated Masuk, 9-2, to win the Class L state title on June 14, at Palmer Field.

Bolstered by a complete-game four-hitter from Kovachik, who improved to 3-0 overall, and three hits apiece from Paul Marchese and Matt Romaniello, the Panthers put together a performance that fueled their upset of the Lawmen.

Marchese drove in a pair of runs, while Tim Quinlan went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Sam Cleland added a solo home run to help power a 10-hit Masuk attack that handed Law ace Kevin Johnson (9-1) his first loss of the season.

Johnson had previously thrown a pair of complete-game shutouts in the state tournament heading into the semifinals.

“We have a confident approach,” Masuk High assistant coach Dennis Accomando said. “We’re not up there giving swings away.”

The Panthers capitalized on two Law errors to pin four runs on Johnson early, striking for two in the second and two more in the third.

In the first, infield hits by Romaniello and John Orzechowski, sandwiched around a sharp single to left by Marchese, loaded the bases.

Kyle Horton then hit a tapper to the third-base side of plate.

Law catcher Dillon Rocha fielded and fired high and wide to first, allowing Masuk to tie the game at 1. A walk to Anthony Amoroso forced in a run, giving the Panthers the lead for good.

“It was an interesting inning because the ball was hit out of  the infield once against us,” Simler said. “Things happens, it’s baseball. That’s what makes it the greatest game and the toughest game at the same time.”

An RBI double from Quinlan and a run-scoring single from Marchese made it 4-1 heading into the bottom of the third.

Marchese’ run-scoring single in the fifth knocked Johnson out of the game. Cleland then ripped a solo home run to right field to increase the Masuk advantage to 6-1 in the sixth inning, before Romaniello’s RBI single in the top of the seventh closed out the Panther scoring.

Early on, the Lawmen (21-5) looked to take control of the game.

Mac Taylor led off the bottom of first inning with a line-drive solo home run to right field, but Kovachik, who earned a save in Masuk’s quarterfinal victory over Maloney High of Meriden, kept the Lawmen at bay from there.

After Kovachik committed an error on Kurt Holden’s grounder back to the mound in the second, Rob Griswold’s hard shot glanced off of the right-hander’s leg for a base hit.

The sophomore rebounded to strike out Tim Maher, before Taylor flied out to right field to end the frame.

From there, Kovachik retired eight in a row until hitting Griswold with a pitch to start the bottom of the fifth.

Law’s final run came in the bottom of the seventh, when Frank Mucciacciaro lifted a sacrifice fly. Kovachik then finishing off the gem by striking out clean-up batter Rich Dow — his seventh strikeout of the night — the end Law’s season.

“There were a lot of positives that went into this season,” Simler said. “There was a lot of great team effort out there and there were a lot of great moments that we had as a team... I’ll be thinking about all of the good stuff that happened this season.”