Law brings best to honor Ken Walker in rivalry game (Updated)
Kevin Johnson pitched a complete-game shutout to lead the Jonathan Law baseball team to a 5-0 victory over Foran High last Wednesday afternoon at the newly-dedicated Ken Walker Field.
Prior to the game, a ceremony was held to dedicate Foran’s field to former head coach Ken Walker, who passed away last June.
“It was a nice day, it was a nice way to remember Coach Walker,” Law coach Greg Simler said. “I don’t think Coach Walker would’ve wanted it any other way then for us to come out and give Foran our best effort.”
Johnson, a hard-throwing junior, certainly contributed his best effort. The big right-hander, who lobbied the coaching staff to start the rivalry game, surrendered two hits, struck out eight and posted the victory in his first start of the season in the Southern Connecticut Conference Hammonasset Division showdown.
“I wasn’t quite sure who I was going to start today,” Simler said. “When he came and asked for the ball, my assistant coach and I looked at each other and nodded our heads.”
Jake Rouse provided the offense for the Lawmen (3-2, 1-0), going 3-for-4 with three runs batted in, including a two-run double in the fourth inning that gave Law a 3-0 edge.
Jimmy Palmer drove in a pair of runs for Law with a sixth-inning single, while Tim Maher added two hits, one run scored and a stolen base.
Chris Yee and Anthony Alicki had the hits for Foran, which dropped to 4-1 overall.
“We came up on the short end of the stick,” Lions’ coach Garrett Walker said, who suffered his first defeat since taking over for his late father. “We’ve played four very good games in a row, so this was bound to happen. I wish it wasn’t today, but that’s life.”
Casey McCone threw a complete game for the Lions, allowing 10 hits and striking out four.
“It didn’t turn out in our favor,” McCone said. “That’s baseball, you’ve got to accept it for what it is and just move on. It’s a tough loss and obviously it being the dedication game, it’s even tougher to deal with. But we’ll get past it, we’ll bounce back.”
McCone worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first, after hitting Dillon Rocha, allowing a single to Rouse and walking Palmer. He rebounded to strike out Rich Dow and Johnson, before Dave DeRubeis grounded out to first base to end the inning.
Johnson then defused a Lion threat in the bottom of the inning. Reinaldo Jackson walked on a 3-2 pitch and Chris Yee punched a single to right-center field.
With McCone at the plate, Johnson then picked Jackson off of second base. McCone eventually grounded out the second, before Joe Zanghi grounded out to third base.
“The atmosphere of the day might’ve put some nerves on some kids,” Garrett Walker said. “It’s kind of hard not to have them on a day like this.”
That ignited a string of 11 batters retired in a row by Johnson, until Alicki slashed an opposite-field double down the line in left field leading off the bottom of the fifth.
“I just had to get used to the mound,” Johnson said. “It had a big divot at the end.”
Law broke the scoreless deadlock in the top of the second, when Drew DeRubeis singled and scored on Rouse’s RBI grounder to second base.
Rob Griswold and Maher singled consecutively leading off the fourth inning, before Rocha dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Rouse then delivered the knockout punch, ripping in a two-run double to right field to make it 3-0.
Palmer’s two-run single in the top of sixth scored Rocha and Rouse to provide Johnson with a pair of insurance runs.
In the bottom of the seventh, McCone and Zanghi drew back-to-back walks as Foran looked for an uprising.
Johnson stopped the Lions in their tracks though — striking out Alicki, getting Dilion Brown to fly out to left and ending the game with a tapper back to the mound from pinch-hitter Joe Radecki.
“They have a real competitive program and so do we,” Simler said. “This is a special rivalry we have in Milford.”
After the game, both teams reflected on the pre-game dedication ceremony, which included speeches from Mayor Ben Blake and former Milford High coach Dick Jeynes, among others.
“I miss Coach Walker,” Simler said. “It’s really difficult not seeing him our there sitting on his bucket. I can still hear him yelling in my ear as I’m coaching third base. And Garrett is going to continue the winning tradition here at Foran.”
Said Garrett Walker:
“It was very fitting (the ceremony). It was a great tribute to Coach Walker. It was very hard for me to get through, but I was glad Law was a part of it. I thanked them for it.”