Joe Morris feted for pitching skills

If Milford Post 196 played a perfect game, the 17U baseball team would have won a 2-0 decision over Tolland and be packing its bags for a weekend trip to the Northeast Regionals in Manchester (N.H.).

But Tolland took advantage of five errors to go with 10 hits to emerge with a 6-2 victory in the American Legion Junior state tournament championship game at Cubeta Stadium in Stamford on Sunday, Aug. 3.

“Defense has won us more games than pitching or hitting,” said manager Angelo Simonelli after Post 196’s Zone 2 winning summer ended with a 24-4 record.

“The coaches told the players at the first practice that playing well on defense would be the key for us. Today we didn’t play well on defense.”

Milford’s Joe Morris, who was named the tournament finals' top pitcher, allowed 10 hits in five innings of pitching, but would have worked out of every jam with solid support. A right-hander, Morris had three timely strikeouts.

Tolland’s Jacob Simon, who threw three shutout innings in relief of Thomas Slane, was the tourney MVP. Slane was the top hitter.

Zone 8 champion Tolland (22-3) took the lead in the top of the second inning after a dropped fly ball with two outs allowed the run to score.

The margin moved to 2-0 in the third after a walk, a one-out error and a two-out bloop single.

Milford, which went down in order with three strikeouts in the first two innings, tied the game in its third at-bat.

Dylan Bartel and James Mucciacciaro had solid base hits to left field to begin the rally, but Tolland catcher Dan Steiner showed off his strong arm and put the first out in the book on a pick-off play at second.

Post 196 regrouped, as Justin Lanese singled to center and Josh Mixie’s hot shot inside the third-base bag loaded the bases.

Brett Huber fouled off a tough 2-2 pitch and worked Slane for his only free pass to score Mucciacciaro.

Mike Bevino’s grounder to second was good for an RBI and only one out, as Huber took out the shortstop and Bevino busted it down the line to avoid the double play.

Slane left two runners in scoring position with another grounder to Cody Ouellette at second.

Each team stranded a runner in the fourth inning, Bartel was hit by a pitch, before three Milford errors led to four unearned Tolland runs in the fifth.

A bad hop single by Sean Kelly and a misplayed grounder put two runners aboard.

After a popout and a walk, Morris got the ground ball he was looking for with the infield in, but the throw home was low and Tolland had a 3-2 lead.

A dropped foul pop extended Simon’s at-bat, and he took advantage two pitches later with an RBI single.

Steiner added a two-run single, before Morris left the bases loaded with a fly ball out to Colin Firmender in right-center field.

Brian Wydra pitched the final two innings for Milford. A left-hander, Wydra retired six straight batters, two on strikes.

Simon set down 9-of-10 batters in relief, four on strikes, going into the home seventh.

He added a strikeout, but Milford wasn’t done. Bartel reached base for the third time with his second hit. Mucciacciaro’s second single was followed by Mike Piechota’s well-struck fly ball out to center.

Mixie singled to keep hopes alive, but Simon got the last out on a forceout grounder to third.

Milford Post 196 was led by James Mucciacciaro, Joe Morris, Josh Mixie, Anthony Raccio, Mike Bevino, Bryan Wydra, Justin Lanese, Colin Firmender, Brett Huber, Bryan Firmender, Mike Howell, Mike Piechota, Angelo Simonelli, Thomas Marchitto, Matthew Jambor and Dylan Bartel. Jim Mucciacciaro, Ray Huber and Dave Lanese were coaches.