American Legion Notebook: Multiple Teams Advance to Second Tournament Weekend

As the American Legion baseball Senior and Junior Leagues are in the midst of the State Tournaments, it is time to look back and acknowledge the many local teams that had successful regular seasons in both leagues. Nine local teams qualified for the State Tournaments, including seven in Zone 8. A handful of these teams have been able to go on tournament runs.

Junior (17U)

Ellington went 14-8 to finish third in Zone 8. Brady Coleman was electric for the team both at the plate on the mound, recording a batting average of .518 and driving in 16 runs and going 4-1 with a 1.65 earned run average.

Ellington earned the ninth seed in the Northern Division of the State Tournament. It fell 3-2 to No. 8 Wallingford in the opening round on the 18th, but came back to beat No. 16 Avon 14-4 before knocking off top seeded Ledyard/Pawcatuck 11-6. Ellington will travel again to Wallingford on the 23rd.

Glastonbury finished fourth in Zone 1-7, going 13-11. After struggling in the second half of the season, the No. 12 seed has flipped a switch in states, defeating No. 13 Tri-Town 3-1 and No. 5 West Hartford 12-2, after losing to West Hartford 9-3 in its first game. Glastonbury will play at No. 4 Cheshire on the 23rd.

Tolland grabbed the final playoff berth in Zone 8 by going 12-8. Matt Byam and Jake Rollins were its top hitters.

After playing inconsistently later in the season, Tolland has looked very strong in states. As the No. 11 seed, Tolland lost its opening game 4-0 to No. 6 Windsor Locks, but turned things around by defeating South Windsor 12-6 and No. 11 Simsbury 3-1. Tolland will again play at Windsor Locks on the 23rd.

“In the two wins, our bats have come to life and we are starting to hit the ball well throughout the lineup,” manager Kris Popovitch said. “Starter Brian Clokey pitched his best game of the season against Simsbury, doing an excellent job of mixing his pitches. We played tough and we are looking forward to our rematch.”

Manchester played inconsistently during the regular season and finished fifth in Zone 8 at 10-11. Ace Corey Roya went 4-1 with a 1.19 ERA.

Manchester managed to earn a No. 15 tournament seed and has surprised, beating No. 10 Bristol 4-3 and No. 7 Norwich 6-2 after an initial 6-0 loss to No. 2 RCP. Manchester will look to continue the upsets against RCP on the 23rd.

South Windsor won Zone 8 with a record of 15-5. Its pitching was excellent, allowing just 43 runs. It was seeded third in the tournament but struggled, being upset 5-2 by No. 14 Simsbury and then losing to Tolland.

“The coaches are very proud of this team and their mental focus and toughness. This zone was very competitive and the boys did a great job battling and staying in each game,” manager Dan Van Horn said. “We had steady offense and pitched and played defense very well.”

Senior (19U)

Tolland won the Zone 8 regular season championship by going 18-3. It allowed just 31 runs behind the trio of Jacob Simon, Matt Curtis and Nick Paasch, who each had an ERA of 1.00 or lower.

Tolland earned the number one seed for the Northern Division in the State Tournament and earned a bye to the third round, where it faced No. 11 Glastonbury in a three-game series beginning on the 20th. Tolland’s pitching led the way as the team won 3-1 and 2-1 to win the series. Tolland advanced to the Super Regionals along with RCP and Avon, which began on the 23rd.

“Our pitching and defense continued to carry us against Glastonbury like it has all season, and in both games we came up with key RBIs and took advantage of miscues by them,” manager Steve Paasch said. “We will need to swing it better in the super regionals to win.”

South Windsor was runner-up in Zone 8 with a record of 16-5. Led by Ben Custer, Tyler Sarra and Tommy Sand, the offense was outstanding, averaging over five runs.

South Windsor earned the fifth seed and a first round bye in the Tournament’s Northern Division but was immediately upset by No. 12 Berlin, losing 2-0. Manager Craig Zimmerman credited Berlin for playing good defense and said its pitcher was outstanding.

Zimmerman largely attributed South Windsor’s success to the player’s chemistry and work ethic.

“All of our players had a great love of the game and formed a strong bond with each other. Our team came to the field each day looking to get better and compete.”

In Zone 7, Glastonbury tied for second with West Hartford, finishing 16-8. Pitcher Ben Woodard and outfield Garrett Frick were named to the All-Zone 7 Team, while Drey Heymann was an honorable mention.

Glastonbury, seeded ninth in the Northern Division, defeated No. 16 Wolcott 4-2 and No. 8 Bristol 1-0 to reach its series against Tolland, where it was swept.

“The win against Wolcott was huge for us because it was the program’s first tournament win since 2005, and Drew pitched outstanding against Bristol,” head coach John Chase said. “Against Tolland we didn’t do a good job of hitting with men in scoring position. “

“These guys had a great season and showed they could beat anyone,” he said. “Glastonbury has a good nucleus returning and we hope to keep the success going.”

Enfield went 12-9 to finish third in Zone 8, a half-game ahead of Manchester. Tom Owens was dominant at the plate, recording a .369 BA and 20 RBI, and fireballer Wyatt Hurlbert also starred, going 4-1 with an 0.71 ERA.

14th-seeded Enfield rallied against No. 11 Simsbury in the Tournament’s first round, winning 7-3. Unfortunately, its offense was shut down the next day in a 4-0 loss to No. 6 New London.

Manchester was the final team from Zone 8 to qualify for states, finishing 11-9 and earning the program’s first tournament berth in many years. Its pitching staff was highly efficient, allowing an average of just 2.6 runs.

No. 15 Manchester had the unfortunate task of facing Waterford pitcher Colin Bakken in a career-best performance. Bakken threw a no-hitter and struck out eight to lead his 10th-seeded squad to the 1-0 win. Manchester manager Ken Precourt praised Bakken’s fastball and slider.

“I’m very proud of our players and how they came together and competed this year,” Precourt said. “They gave this program a great boost and we are looking forward to taking it to the next level.”

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