Milford Legion falls twice to Branford
Milford Post 196 struggled at times through two games against Branford's Post 83 and lost both ends of a Zone 2 doubleheader by 6-3 and 7-1 scores at George Dummar Sr. Field in Branford on Sunday.
The twin losses left Post 196 with a 1-6 record, and, like Branford, both clubs are still in the lower regions of the Zone 2 standings as the season.
Milford held leads in both games, but in neither one could they hold on as Branford brought its record to 2-5-1.
"What we haven't been able to do is practice," said Milford coach Cliff Bugyi. "Hopefully, we'll get our first one in tomorrow (Monday) night. In baseball, the more you practice, the better you play. We need to be able to hold on to leads once we get them. We're making routine mistakes on plays that we should be finishing off."
Milford faces a long and arduous week. Post 196 had a three-game set with Orange Post 127, who is atop the Zone 2 standings with an 8-2 record, which began on Tuesday night in Milford. Both teams were then scheduled to play on Wednesday night at Brinley Field in Orange and finish the series on Thursday at Foran High. After that, Milford has a doubleheader planned with North Haven on Saturday morning.
Ahead 3-2 in the opener, Milford surrendered three, late-game runs. Post 196 scored in the first inning of game two. After that, they were blanked by the pitching of Branford starter Eddie Zanor and reliever Devin Lawson.
Zanor pitched into the sixth inning while throwing 72 pitches before Lawson finished up.
Milford’s Conor Creane opened the first by lining a sharply-hit ball into left for a single. He quickly moved up on a wild pitch and went to third on a passed ball.
Kevin Lanese drew a walk and stole second, giving the next batter, J.T. Lanese, a chance to chase both runners home with a well-hit ball. However, Kevin Lanese was picked off second as Zanor combined with Branford second baseman D,J. Caron for the put-out.
J.T. Lanese did come through, however, with an opposite-field base hit to left which plated Creane. The rally though was cut short when Anthony Capasso hit into a double play.
From the first inning on, Milford put seven other runners in scoring position, but they were thwarted every time. Branford turned two more double plays.
Post 83 tied it at 1-1 in the second before scoring two runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
"With the newer pitch restrictions put in place (forcing coaches to keep an even closer count game-by-game) we need our pitchers to be able to throw strikes," said Post 83 coach Ryan Santoro, who's in his first season at the helm after replacing Rich Balzano, a manager who had taken Branford to the American Legion World Series in 2005 and 2013. "I'm happy when they do and our fielders make plays. That, and timely hitting, helped us to win two games today."
Seven players had a hit for Branford with Robbie Barbash driving in two runs. Post 83 also used nine walks by four Milford pitchers to their advantage.
Up 5-1 in the sixth, Santoro had Caron bunt runners over with a first and second situation. Barbash followed with a two-run single.
Milford had only 11 players available on Sunday. It's something that concerns Bugyi.
"We had three kids at college orientation today," he said. "We'll have them back soon. We'll be alright. We do need to work on pitching. With the rules the way they are, our guys have to throw more strikes; to cut down on their pitch counts."
Milford starter Cody Hennequin threw 98 pitches into the fifth inning, before giving way to Nick Lombardo, who had also relieved David Payne in the first game. Bugyi also used Capasso and finished the game up with Kevin Lanese, who efficiently used only 11 pitches on three batters in the seventh.
Jeremiah Bravo, Matt Boath and Dillon LaRoche each had two hits.