South Windsor American Legion Earns Big Comeback Win Against Manchester

By Danny Atkinson

SOUTH WINDSOR-The South Windsor American Legion 19U team earned a highly valuable Zone 8 win on Friday night, coming back to defeat rival Manchester 2-1. Pitcher Tyler Sarra was dominant on the mound, holding Manchester to four hits in a complete game.

With the win, South Windsor improved to 14-4 and ended a two-game losing streak while staying just a half-game behind Zone leader Tolland. Since Friday, South Windsor has defeated East Hartford and Enfield and lost to Windsor and  has kept place with Tolland. Manchester recovered well from the loss, blowing out Rockville and Ellington. It know has a record of 11-9 and is fourth in Zone 8.

Sarra struggled somewhat in the top of the first inning. Justin Miller started the game off with a single before advancing to third on a walk and sacrifice bunt by Kevin Lynch. Jason Frankovitch then smacked a single to give Manchester a 1-0 lead. Sarra escaped any further damage by retiring Thomas Precourt and Daniel Hernandez. From there, he was in control.

Following the first inning, Sarra allowed just two hits and walks in the remaining six innings. He did not allow Manchester to advance a runner to third and and did a highly efficient job of locating and missing his pitches, keeping batters off balance with a mix of fastballs and a curveball. Sarra was also able to keep the ball down, forcing a high number of ground balls.

“Throwing first-pitch strikes was a big advantage for me,” Sarra said. “I’ve been trying to work on mixing up my pitches and my curveball was good today. That allowed me to force a lot of ground balls.”

Manchester starter Chad Hahn began the game pitching very well, showing off solid control and a first-rate fastball and knuckleball. He held South Windsor scoreless in the first few innings, with it wasting a good scoring chance when Ryan Stramel was doubled off second on a fly ball out to end the third. South Windsor eventually took advantage of some poor pitches by Hahn in the fourth to take the lead. With one out, Adam Bettigole hit a dribbler between the plate and third base to reach first and Brendan Mabey then jumped on a hanging curveball down the middle and hit a laser line drive down the left field line, with Bettigole advancing to third and Mabey to second. Robert Williams followed him and came through in the clutch, hitting a line drive single to left on a fastball that caught too much of the plate and driving in both runners.

Hahn escaped the fourth and pitched well in the final two innings, allowing just one hit. By then however, it was too late.

South Windsor head coach Craig Zimmerman discussed his offense’s improved performance against Hahn as the game went on.

“We were a little more comfortable against him the second time up and in the fourth. We’ve competed pretty well this year at the plate in the zone, including tonight, and it’s something we’re going to work to get better at,” he said. “We will only go as far as our bats take us.”

Manchester head coach Ken Pecourt said that his team had Sarra on the ropes in the first inning but was unable to sustain its focus and that he settled down and pitched at a high level for the rest of the game. Precort also praised Hahn’s performance.

“Chad has been battling a bad back and just got back to the mound, and he looked phenomenal tonight. He’s a young kid with a great knuckleball, and he’s gonna look better in the future.”

Sarra and Zimmerman both said a comeback win was highly satisfying after too losses.

“This is big after a tough loss to Rockville,” Sarra said. “We wanted to stay second in the zone and keep on track heading into the state tournament.”

“This is a funny game, and we had been losing closely to some tough competition. It was big for us to win a close one and having things go our way this time,” Zimmerman said.

Currently, South Windsor and Manchester would both qualify for the 19U State Tournament if the season ended today, as the top four teams in each Zone make it. Zimmerman and Pecourt both discussed what their teams needed to do in the final few regular season games and their chances at  tournament success.

“I think we just have to play with a one inning at a time, one game at a time mentality and treat our remaining games as tournament ones,” Zimmerman said. “We can throw strong pitchers in states and beat anybody, but  the opposite has also proved true the last few weeks.”

“We have to continue to play solid defense and hit well with runners on best the ret of the regular season. Our program has come a long way the last few years, and I absolutely think we can keep the momentum and make a state tournament run,” Pecourt said.

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