By MICHAEL LETENDRE
BRISTOL – The St. Paul Catholic scholastic baseball team is going for its third championship – in five tries – as the fourth rated squad in Class S battles No. 3 Morgan in a winner-takes-all championship showdown from Palmer Field in Middletown on Saturday.
It’s the first championship appearance by the Falcons since 1976 and all of St. Paul Catholic’s title games came during the 1970’s.
Last season, the squads tangled in the quarterfinal round as then No. 4 Morgan snuck passed No. 5 St. Paul Catholic by a 5-3 final.
Advancing to the finals, Morgan dropped a tough 5-1 decision to Northwest Catholic as the (then) Indians won the state championship.
It this a revenge game for the Falcons and the final step to another state championship or are the Huskies going to make its second consecutive appearance in the title game count?
Here’s the deal on Saturday’s Class S final:
Class S – Championship Round
The Game: No. 4 St. Paul Catholic (19–6) vs. No. 3 Morgan (20-4)
Location: Palmer Field, Middletown, 3:30 p.m.
Road to the Finals – Morgan: The team blanked three of four playoff challengers but in second round action, the Huskies were sternly challenged by No. 14 Lyman Memorial, 3-2.
Over its last two games in wins over No. 6 Sports & Medical Science Academy, and No. 23 Cromwell, Morgan has outscored its opponents 16-0 and has allowed just eight runs in the tournament overall (compared to 31 runs scored).
The Regular Season: Three of the squad’s four losses were by one run while Morgan’s first game of the season was a 4-1 loss to Cromwell. The Huskies are part of the Shoreline Conference and are coached by John Litevich.
Who to Watch: Chad Neri is a talented pitcher and it will be interesting to see if he will open on the mound after starting on Tuesday against Cromwell, posting a 6-0 win. He gave up four hits and struck out four in the semifinal victory (he hasn’t given up more than two runs all season). He earned the SLC Pitcher of the Year Award and is 10-0 on the campaign. A.J Fritz, Madden Ward, Dylan Ketch (catcher), Will Fritz, Russ Green, and Tyler Borzillo lead a very imposing offensive onslaught.
Indeed, this will be quite a challenge for the Falcons.
Road to the Finals – St. Paul Catholic: The Falcons (19-6) have scored 30 runs in postseason play and picked off No. 29 Coginchaug (15-6), dropped No. 13 Notre Dame-Fairfield (4-0), defeated No. 12 Portland (6-5) and turned away a scrappy bunch in the form of No. 24 Old Lyme (5-2). St. Paul Catholic high school has given up just 13 runs in the postseason thanks to its outstanding defense and pitching.
The Regular Season: After winning 11 of 12 games to open play in 2016, St. Paul Catholic high school went .500 the rest of the way and dropped its Naugatuck Valley League tournament opener to Wolcott by a single run. Three of the Falcons five regular season losses were by three runs or less.
Who to Watch: Give credit to the senior core – a unit eight players strong – and Morgan might have to deal with Southern New Hampshire University bound pitcher Connor Crean on the mound to start. But if not, junior Wes Lahey is a guy the squad could turn to. He is big time talent, can and will throw strikes and – as we’ve seen during American Legion action in the postseason – he’s come through in the clutch on several occasions. Drew Owsianko has been hitting the ball really well as of late and Zach Parent smacked the hit of the game against No. 24 Old Lyme in the Falcons three run victory. Don’t forget about the state championship caliber defense behind those pitchers. You know all the names by now: Ben Mazzone, Mike Dombrowski, Jackson Hines and ‘Big’ Chadd Richardson will once again be behind the plate.
The Falcons are primed and ready for this one.
Bristol Observer Prediction: It’s this game too close to call? Maybe.
But either team would make a worthy champion at this point as two of the top four squads in all of Class S are playing in the final game of the season.
How about this gradation present for the Falcons and its outstanding senior core: St. Paul Catholic wins its third champion behind a 4-3 final.