Friday, June 10, 2016

St. Paul's journey ends with a shot at the state title

It wasn't always easy for St. Paul.

Then again, it never is in the Naugatuck Valley League.

Those tough games prepared the Falcons for the Class S state tournament. 
First-year head coach Vic Rinaldi and St. Paul are playing for the school's first state title since 1972.
St. Paul, guided by first-year head coach Vic Rinaldi, assistant coach Dave Hansen and pitching coach Jarrett Stawarz, now plays its biggest game in 40 years.

Tomorrow, the fourth-seeded Falcons face the third-seeded Morgan Huskies in the Class S state championship game at 3:30 p.m. at Palmer Field in Middletown. St. Paul is going for its third state title, but the first since 1972. The Falcons are 2-2 all-time in championship games.
Morgan is aiming for its first state title. The Huskies lost in 1968 and 2005.

St. Paul posted a 15-5 regular season record. Along the way, there were some bumps. St. Paul was whooped 11-5 at home by Seymour, then lost a tough 7-5 road game at Holy Cross. There was a walk-off 5-4 loss to Ansonia, a 10-2 blowout home loss to Oxford, and a 4-1 road loss against Terryville.

St. Paul never lost more than one in a row all season. The Falcons used steady pitching from the likes of Connor Crean, Wes Lahey, Andrew Owsianko, Jackson Hines and others to lead the way. When St. Paul has been knocked down, it has been able to get back up.

"Our pitchers have kept us in nearly every game," Rinaldi said before a practice on May 20.

There was another difficult loss, 4-3 at home to Wolcott in a NVL Tournament quarterfinal game. Still, St. Paul's regular season was good enough to earn a No. 4 seed in Class S.

The Falcons began the tournament by topping No. 29 Coginchaug in a 15-6 slugfest. Next up was a 4-0 shutout of No. 13 Notre Dame-Fairfield behind Crean and the hitting of Ryan Greene. In the quarterfinals against No. 12 Portland, St. Paul hung on for a 6-5 win. Crean was shaky with his control in the semifinal against upstart No. 24 Old Lyme, but Crean and Hines combined on a two-hitter, and the Falcons used one big inning to pull out a 5-2 victory.

That all sets up the state final against Morgan. The Huskies started their state tournament with a 12-0 rout of Shoreline Conference foe Westbrook, the No. 30 seed. Morgan squeaked past No. 14 Lyman Memorial 3-2 in the second round, then hammered No. 6 SMSA 10-0 in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, the Huskies shut out SLC foe Cromwell, No. 23, 6-0. Morgan has three shutouts in the tournament and has yielded just two runs.

It's the final game for St. Paul seniors Mike Dombrowski (captain), Wayne Sharp, Crean, Jarod Deegan, Ben Mazzone, Hines, Joe Ricciuti and Chadd Richardson. Those seniors hope to leave the Falcon program with the first state championship since 1972.

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