Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BASEBALL TRIFECTA: Three locals aim for state finals today

The St. Paul, Bristol Eastern and Wolcott baseball teams have all taken different paths to reach the same point in separate state classes.
Each squad is in the state semifinals, and all will take aim at a berth in the state finals today. St. Paul, the No. 4 seed in Class S, goes first against upstart No. 24 Old Lyme of the Shoreline Conference at 1:30 p.m. at Beehive Field in New Britain.
Both Bristol Eastern and Wolcott play at 7 p.m. The Lancers are the top seed in Class L and will face No. 4 East Lyme of the Eastern Connecticut Conference at Palmer Field in Middletown. The Eagles are the No. 8 seed in Class M and will take on No. 4 Haddam-Killingworth of the SLC at Zipadelli Field (Sage Park) in Berlin.
Here's how each local team got to this point:

First-year head coach Vic Rinaldi looks to lead St. Paul to its first state final appearance since 1976.
The Falcons must get past No. 24 Old Lyme today in a Class S semifinal first.

St. Paul
Seed: No. 4
Road to the semifinals: defeated No. 29 Coginchaug (SLC) 15-6; defeated No. 13 Notre Dame-Fairfield (South-West Conference) 4-0; defeated No. 12 Portland (SLC) 6-5
SLC again: Two of the first three Falcon opponents were from the Shoreline Conference, so naturally St. Paul's road to the final would be blocked by another one. Old Lyme took out No. 9 Sacred Heart of the NVL 7-3 in the first round, dispatched No. 25 Terryville 2-1 in the second round, then upset top-seeded Oxford of the NVL 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
Pitching, but some big hitting as well: The Falcons have made their mark with their pitching, but the offense has come alive in the state tournament. St. Paul erupted for its third-highest run total of the season against Coginchaug, then were paced by sophomore Ryan Greene (two-run home run) against Notre Dame-Fairfield. The Falcons used more good hitting and opportunistic play (three errors) to dispose of Portland.
Common opponents: Being from the SLC, Old Lyme is familiar with St. Paul state tournament opponents Coginchaug and Portland. Old Lyme beat Portland twice during the regular season (16-11, 5-0), but lost to Coginchaug (6-3).
Ace: With Wes Lahey throwing a complete game against Portland Saturday, Connor Crean will likely get the ball today. Crean carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the Notre Dame-Fairfield game.
First semifinal since last century: The Falcons are in their first state semifinal game since 1999.
If St. Paul wins: It will clinch its first appearance in the state finals since 1976.

Top-seeded Bristol Eastern hopes to be celebrating like its 1986 after tonight's Class L semifinal against East Lyme.
That was the last time the Lancers made a state final. Eastern won the state title that season, ironically against East Lyme.
Bristol Eastern
Seed: No. 1 
Road to the semifinals: defeated No. 32 Joel Barlow (SWC) 2-0; defeated No. 16 Windsor (CCC) 14-1; defeated No. 9 East Haven (Southern Connecticut Conference) 6-1
Not so familiar: While the Falcons played two teams from the SLC in the first three rounds, the Lancers faced opponents from three different leagues. Bristol Eastern was familiar with Windsor, a team it beat 4-3 on the road during the regular season.
Pitching, pitching, pitching: Nate Carney has two wins in two starts, and Tyler Troth picked up the other victory. Bristol Eastern has surrendered just two runs in the first three games.
And some good offense: The Lancers have also swung the bats well in the past two games. Bristol Eastern bludgeoned Windsor, then got some timely hits to put away East Haven.
The opponent: East Lyme beat beat No. 29 Guilford 5-3 in the first round, then took out No. 29 Platt by a 7-3 margin in the second round. In their quarterfinal, the Vikings hammered No. 5 Watertown of the NVL, 12-0. East Lyme has shown the ability to score runs this season, tallying six or more of them 12 different times in the regular season. After a 0-4 start, the Vikings ran off 16 straight wins to close the regular season.
Been there, done that: The Vikings are making their third straight semifinal appearance, and the fourth since 2010. East Lyme was the runner-up to North Haven in Class L last year, so it definitely has some experience on its side.
First state semifinal since last decade: The Lancers haven't been on this stage since 2007.
If Bristol Eastern wins: It will clinch its first appearance in the state finals since 1986. All the Lancers did that year was win the Class L state title, beating East Lyme.

Wolcott's Ike Negretti, left, and Nick Longo hope to be celebrating the program's first-ever state final appearance tonight.
The Eagles need to get past Haddam-Killingworth in the Class M semifinals before any partying can begin.
Seed: No. 8
Road to the semifinals: defeated No. 25 Bacon Academy (ECC) 6-2; defeated No. 9 Ellington (North Central Connecticut Conference) 13-12; defeated No. 1 Waterford (ECC) 5-2
Ike Negretti: The senior righty has been strong on the mound for the Eagles in this postseason. After winning a tough road game in the NVL Tournament against St. Paul, Negretti picked up complete-game victories over Bacon Academy and Waterford.
Extra-base hits: Wolcott has a bunch so far. Steve Urbanski had three doubles in the Ellington win, and Matt Warren was one off his pace with two. Jeff Nichol doubled and homered in the Ellington win while Jacob Gabriel also went deep. Warren doubled and homered in the Waterford game while Urbanski also clubbed a home run. And oh yeah, Warren had a big double in the Bacon Academy win.
ECC road: Wolcott has taken out two teams from the ECC in the first three rounds, including top-seeded Waterford on the road on Saturday.
Making their way back: Two years ago, the Eagles missed the state tournament at 6-14. This year, they have a chance to make the state final.
The opponent: H-K won eight straight games to open the season, then lost two of three. The Cougars ripped off six straight wins, then lost two in a row before defeating Cromwell in their regular season finale. H-K lost in the quarterfinal round of the SLC Tournament, but has gotten back on track since. The Cougars beat No. 29 Norwich Tech (Constitution State Conference) 4-1 in the first round, No. 20 St. Joseph (Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference) 3-0 in the second round, and No. 12 Plainfield (ECC) 7-6 in the quarterfinals.
Competent Cougars: H-K played for the Class M state title in 2012 and 2014.
First time in five years for Wolcott: The Eagles are in their first state semifinal game since 2011. Wolcott lost 4-0 to NVL foe Seymour in Class M that year.
If Wolcott wins: It will clinch the program's first-ever berth in the state final. That's right, a win tonight would be historic.

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