Russo turns two, South Windsor two wins from section title

HARWINTON — The South Windsor Americans 11-12 Little League team turned the most unconventional of double plays to narrowly squeak by Burlington Thursday night 2-1 and move within two wins of a berth to the state tournament.

Leading by a single run, South Windsor gave up a lead off double, putting the tying run in scoring position.

After Zach Donahue struck out the next batter, catcher John Russo turned in a clutch play he will never forget.

Burlington trued to put down a sacrifice bunt, but the ball floated just over Russo’s head behind the plate. Russo quickly reached up and retired the batter, and then noticed the runner on had broken from second base.

“Today it was awareness all around,” South Windsor hear coach Jason Donahue said. “For him not only to make that play, but to also look up was unbelievable.”

Russo relayed the ball to second base where the double play was completed, and the game was over, just like that.

“How huge for us,” Donahue said after the play. “I said ‘lets get out of here before anything changes.’ A win is a win.

But the double play was not the only thing unconventional about the game.

Both of the South Windsor runs came off small ball, great base running and no hits.

In the first, Zach Donahue reached on a passed third strike, and scored on three passed balls.

Then, after letting Burlington tie the contest at 1-apiece, a walk, wild pitch, sacrifice and second wind pitch scored Anthony Conachi.

“We struggled offensively today,” the coach said, “But we found a way to win. That’s what winners do. You never know what can happen until the final out.”

In yet another strange development, South Windsor got an out from a player who wasn’t even in the game. In the fourth frame, Burlington hit a lead off double. But a reserve South Windsor player watching intently from the bench told the coaches the runner never touched first, and the Burlington runner was promptly retired.

“It has been so many kids contributing at different times,” the coach said. “For John Russo, who has struggled offensively, it makes them feel like such a valuable part of the team. Throughout this run, it’s always been somebody making a play.”

From the mound, Robert Williams was spectacular, striking out nine in four and one third innings.

Donahue and Williams each had one of the two South Windsor hits in the game.

South Windsor gets a day off Friday before taking the field again Saturday. Should they win, they would advance to the championship game Tuesday, July 23. A loss would send them to the losers’ bracket, with another chance to advance to the finals with a win.

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