American Legion Notebook: Tolland and South Windsor Win Zone Titles

By Danny Atkinson

The Senior (19U) and Junior American Legion (17U) regular season has ended for all of the local Zone 8 and 7 teams except for the Tri-County Senior squad. In Zone 8 four Senior teams qualified for the State Tournament in Tolland, South Windsor, Enfield and Manchester, while three Junior teams will advance in South Windsor, Ellington and Tolland. Glastonbury’s 19U team also qualified in Zone 7.

19U

Tolland won the Zone 8 title, finishing two games ahead of South Windsor with a record of 18-3. It secured the title by going 5-1 this month and winning the final three games against Ellington, Rockville and Enfield. Tolland ended the season averaging 4.6 runs per game and allowing a remarkable 31 overall runs. It allowed just one run in those final three wins, with Nick Paasch tossing a complete game shutout against Ellington.

“Winning the zone provides a big advantage and our team understands its value.  Capturing the zone title helps to continue to draw interest of players and keep players engaged in our program,” manager Steve Paasch said. 

Paasch discussed the strength of Tolland’s pitching throughout the season.

“We have three strong starters who carried the bulk of the workload:  Jacob Simon, Matt Curtis, and Nick Paasch.All three had an ERA of 1.00 or lower during the season,” Paasch said. “Sean Kelly was another strong contributor to our pitching rotation giving quality spot starts.”

Paasch and his players are determined to maintain focus entering the State Tournament.

“All the teams in the tourney have solid hitting and at least a couple strong starting pitchers.  Any team can fall on any given day.  It is important to focus one game at a time.

South Windsor finished 16-5, finishing four games ahead of Enfield. It recovered from a frustrating start to the month by winning three of its final four games. South Windsor’s offense was outstanding for much of the season, averaging five runs per game, while its pitchers allowed just over three runs. During the last week, Tyler Sarra and Adam Bettigole threw great games against Manchester and Enfield.

Enfield finished 12-9 and third in the Zone, a half-game ahead of Manchester. It played inconsistently the second half of the season, going 5-5 in the final 10 games, but was able to secure a playoff berth by winning three of of four games against Rockville, Tolland and East Hartford between the 8th and 13th. Wyatt Hurlbert tossed a shutout in the 2-0 win at Rockville on the 8th, allowing just three hits while striking out eight batters. At East Hartford three days later, Brian Cunningham helped lead the squad to a 4-3 win by driving in two runs.

Enfield scored just over four runs per game while allowing 3.4. Tom Owens and Daniel Neal ended the season as a dominant offensive duo, with Owens finishing with a .369 batting average, 20 runs batted in and six stolen bases, and Neal with a .459 on-base percentage and 10 RBI.  Hurlbert dominated on the mound, going 4-1 with a 0.71 earned run average in six starts, while Owens was also great, going 3-1 with a 0.93 ERA and striking out 25 hitters in 22.2 innings.

Manchester ended the regular season 11-9, securing a tournament berth by ending it with a 12-2 win against Rockville and 10-1 triumph over Ellington. It averaged just over four runs per game while allowing 2.6. The tournament appearance is the program’s first in many years, and manager Ken Precourt discussed his team’s excitement about making it.

“I’m very proud of our players and how they came together and played this year. We have a very good mix of veterans and young players,” he said. “The success we had this year will hopefully grow our program to another level.”

Manchester is certainly confident heading into the tournament.

“I think that if we play the way we are capable of playing anything is possible,” he said.

In Zone 7, Glastonbury tied for second with West Hartford, finishing 16-8. It ended the season strong by winning three of its final games against Berlin and in a sweep of Newington. Kelly Seamus and Drew Heyman threw shutouts against Berlin and Newington. Glastonbury showcased an excellent pitching staff, allowing just 2.8 runs per game. The offense averaged 4.3 runs.

Ellington finished sixth in Zone 8 with a record of 9-12. It began July strong by winning three games, but lost its final two to Tolland and Manchester. It had a solid offense, scoring 3.6 per game, but allowed just under 100 runs.

Head coach Rob Roberts talked about how this season was a learning experience for his team.

“I think the guys realize now how important early season games and success is. Things like successfully executing on a bunt in an early season game might be the difference whether a team qualifies for the state tournament or not down the road. That’s the way baseball goes,” he said.

Roberts said he had a lot of fun coaching Ellington this summer.

“I really enjoy managing this age group 17-19 years old. This is real baseball and these are young men out there. I also enjoy seeing them develop,” Roberts stated. ”

Overall, this was great a bunch of guys we had this year and my most enjoyable season as an American Legion manager.”

Kidd Chase and Dave Roberts were outstanding both at the plate and on the base paths for Ellington. Chase constantly smashed the ball, hitting for a .447 BA and .660 slugging percentage, and stole nine bases, while Roberts hit .317 and tied for the team lead in RBI with seven while also swiping six bags. Jay Skorulski was outstanding on the mound, putting up a 0.94 ERA while allowing just three walks in 37.1 innings, but had bad luck record wise, going 2-3. Roberts was also very good, leading the teams in wins with three and strikeouts with 30 in 32.2. innings.

Tri-County finished sixth in Zone 7 with a record of 12-2. It struggled late in the season, losing three of its final four games. The offense averaged 4.3 runs per game, while the pitchers gave up jut over four.

Rockville struggled mightily, going 4-17 and finishing seventh. Its offense was the main weakness, scoring just 37 runs. However, Rockville’s pitching was solid at times led by Riley Aafedt and Timothy Baczanski. Aaefet threw three complete games in four starts along with a 1.62 ERA, while Baczanski held teams to a 1.77 ERA and allowed just six walks in 31.2 innings.

The State Tournament will begin on Saturday the 16th.

17U

South Windsor finished 15-5 and two games ahead of Windsor Locks. It ended the season on a tear, going 8-2 over its final 10 games and winning five in a row before a season ending loss to Ellington. Its pitching was dominant, allowing just 43 runs on the campaign. The offense averaged just over three runs per game. During the after mentioned win streak, Hunter Pasqualini threw two complete games.

Ellington finished third in Zone 8 with a record of 13-8, edging Tolland by half a game. The squad won three of its final four. It averaged just under four runs per game while giving up just over four.

Brady Coleman dominated at the plate for Ellington, batting .518 with a .625 SP and driving in 16 runs. Kameryn Boone and Ian Pyne were also excellent, hitting .385 and .362 respectively. Coleman was almost as good on the mound, going 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA and striking out 35 in 32 innings. Pyne was 4-2 with a 1.95 ERA.

Tolland went 12-8 to secure a fourth place finish and tournament berth, but played inconsistently in the second half of the season by going 5-5. Its offense averaged 3.3 runs per game while the pitchers allowed jut over four.

“I am incredibly proud of the team. We have had several injuries this season and for us to qualify for the state tourney is a great accomplishment,” manager Kris Popovitch said. “The boys played well and deserve to be there.”

Popovitch is confident about Tolland’s tournament chances.

“If this team does the little things we can go deep in the tournament. We have seen this team play really well and if our pitching holds up we will be in this tournament for a while.”

Manchester finished 10-11 and fifth, 2.5 games behind Tolland. It averaged just over three runs per game while allowing slightly under four.

Corey Roya was Manchester’s top player by far. On the mound he went 4-1 with a 1.19 ERA, and also slugged .528 while tying for second on the team in RBI with five. Austin Martin also pitched well, finishing with a 2.38 ERA.

Enfield finished sixth in the Zone with a record of 8-11. The squad ended the season playing well, winning three of its final four contests. Enfield Enfield averaged just over three runs while allowing 83.

“Its very frustrating and disappointing for us to not be in the state tourney since this is then first goal we set every year,” assistant coach Chris Ledger said. “Its especially tough knowing that we played hard every game and lost some very close ballgames that would have put us in the tourney. Next season, we ultimately have to win close games to reach the next level.”

Ledger will remember the constant effort this year’s team gave.

“I loved that this group got knocked down a lot and always came back fighting. This team played with a lot of heart all year. I don’t think many teams looked forward to playing us as they knew they were in for a game.”

Matt Falk had a solid season at the plate, hitting .295 and leading it in RBI with 12. Meanwhile, Elisha Swanson Asiam had three wins and a 1.85 ERA while allowing just five walks.       

Rockville went 0-20, having to forfeit every game due to a lack of players.

The 17U State Tournament begins on Monday.   

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