Legion: Post 196 Juniors fall to Hamden

Prior to Monday night’s engagement with Hamden American Legion Post 88, Milford’s 17-and-under team had been outscored 32-10 in three prior meetings.
Post 196 pitcher Nick Lombardo had it in his mind that the final encounter (other than a postseason playoff matchup) wasn’t going to be as one-sided as the others.
Lombardo, a deliberate right-hander who wins personal battles not by the strikeout route (he only had one in the game), but by inducing batters to misjudge his slower deliveries and hit either into groundouts (of which there were eight), or to loft fly balls to the outfield (there were five).
In between, Lombardo held Hamden’s potent offense in check — giving up five hits.
Milford, however, came up a little short in a 2-1 loss, dropping the team’s record to 9-11.
Milford will pretty much need to win out this week in its four remaining games in order to make the Zone 2 American Legion Junior League playoffs.
Hamden, behind a strong pitcher effort from Mike Ferrett (4-1), improved to 18-5 with a game remaining against first-place Branford (16-4). Post 88, which made the state tourney last year before losing 2-1 to Wilton, is already in the Zone 2 playoffs.
After giving up two first-inning runs, Lombardo held his opponent in check the rest of the way.
It took a few innings for Milford hitters to adjust to Ferrett, a hard-throwing righty who, as a freshman this past spring, started every varsity game (as an infielder) at Hamden High School.
Milford finally broke through in the sixth as the inning’s lead-off hitter, Justin Lanese unleashed a towering drive to deep right-center field which easily cleared the head of Kwadir McIntrye. Lanese’s two-base hit gave Milford the scoring opportunity it needed.
When Ryan Dunn hit a grounder to first baseman Anthony Sitro, who retrieved it and got the out with his toss to Ferrett, Lanese moved over to third.
He scored on Frank Paine’s sac fly to left, and Alex Ricci kept the inning going with a two-out single to right center. Ryan Midelson’s ground-out ended the threat, however.
Milford challenged again in the seventh.
Kevin Lanese drew a walk (the only one off of Ferrett, who also had five strikeouts while giving up six hits).
Matt Boath followed with a perfect sacrifice, moving Lanese to second.
Milford coach Mike Merchant chose to go the sacrifice route a second time.
His son, Nate, dropped it down, but Ferrett pounced on it, throwing to Marc Riccitelli at third to cut down Lanese there.
McIntrye then ran down Nick Glorioso’s fly to center, ending the game.
Glorioso, the team’s catcher and lead-off batter, had two of Milford’s seven hits, as did Justin Lanese.
“We’ve gotten a little bit better in each game that we’ve played against them,” Mike Merchant said. “Tonight was a classic example of probably needing just one more inning. It might’ve made the difference.”
In all, Milford left six runners on base.
Hamden struck quickly, getting all of the runs it needed in the first frame.
Ferrett, who hit over .300 in his freshman season at Hamden High, got his team started, and he did it after Lombardo got the first two outs, including his only strikeout when he fanned Trevor Brandi to open the game. Ferrett then doubled to right center and scored on Riccitelli’s base hit to right.
The second run scored on a Milford fielding error, so Lombardo gave up only one earned run.
He finished with 101 pitches and walked four.
Ferrett was even more efficient.
Mixing in an off-speed pitch to counter his heat, he threw just 73 pitches.
“This kid (Ferrett) lives, breaths and dies baseball,” said second-year Hamden coach Luke Devoe. “He didn’t pitch that much this spring at Hamden, but he’ll definitely be a part of their future plans.”
Devoe took over a program which had been dormant for three years.
He previously coached many of his current players with the Hamden Hurricanes youth team.
“We didn’t hit the ball tonight as well as we had in the past against them,” he added.
Meanwhile Milford’s attempt to make the four-team, postseason playoff field is still a quest that they have.
“We’ll probably need some help,” Merchant said. “These kids will continue to give everything they have. That’s the heart of this team.”
Milford had games remaining with Branford (two), New Haven (one) and East Haven (one).
After a night-off, Milford continued play on Wednesday, beginning that two-game set with Branford.