Tolland Struggles on Defense in Opening Super Regionals Loss to New London

SOUTH WINDSOR-The Tolland 19U American Legion team played its first game in the Senior State Tournament Super Regionals Saturday afternoon against fourth-seeded New London, but did not perform up to its top seed. Tolland (20-5) played sloppy defense, committing five errors, had poor luck at the plate, and committed two ill-timed base running mistakes. In the end, these missteps added up to a 6-2 loss at Rotary Field.

New London (21-7) scored unearned runs in each of the first two innings. After Tolland scored in the bottom of the fourth, New London made it 5-1 in the sixth by scoring three runs with the help of two wild pitches, an error and a suicide squeeze. It added a final unearned run in the seventh to make it 6-1.

“If you make that many miscues at this level, it is tough to survive,” Tolland head coach Steve Paasch said. “New London is a very solid team and we have to play at a good defensive level to compete with them and all the teams in the Super Regional. If you make that many miscues and give the opponent a lot of extra outs and runs, it’s very difficult to come out on top.”

Tolland will face Avon in the losers’ bracket of the Northern Division Super Regional Sunday at 1:00. Following this, New London will face RCP, which beat Avon 3-2 Saturday.

Jacob Simon, who pitched the entire game for Tolland, started the game off with a groundball out. The team’s defensive issues then began to rear their ugly head as shortstop Luke Broadhurst committed an error, allowing Trevor Bolduc to reach. Simon walked Jeremy Santos and allowed a single to Justin Marceau to load the bases, and pitcher Pieter Khoury grounded out to second base to give New London a 1-0 lead.

Tolland quickly put pressure on Khoury in the bottom of the first, as center fielder Alex Hoss hit a single and advanced to second base on a ground out. With first baseman Matt Curtis at bat, Hoss became caught in a rundown while attempting to steal third and was thrown out at second to end the inning.

In the second, New London again generated a run with the help of an error. Gabriel Cortorreal led off and reached on a hit by pitch, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. Simon made a strong pitch to force Brett Perry to ground out to first, holding Cortorreal. However, Simon continued to struggle with his control and walked Robinson on four pitches, and Broadhurst failed to snare a ground ball, scoring Cortorreal.

The second and third innings were also frustrating for the Tolland offense. In the second, left fielder Tim Jackson made an athletic catch on a line drive by third baseman Tommy Slane and Curtis was picked off first, while in the third second baseman Clayton Keane was stranded at second after getting there with one out.

Tolland scored one run in the fourth to make it 2-1, but could have gotten more. Taking advantage of some poorly located pitches, Broadhurst and Curtis smacked hard singles and Slane walked to load the bases with no outs. Designated hitter Brian Maher was jammed but managed to hit a sacrifice fly to right, but Slane was gunned down at second by catcher Perry when trying to advance, completing the first of four double plays by New London. Catcher Dan Steiner immediately flew out to left to end the inning.

“Getting just one run was a disappointing result,” Paasch said. That was really a situation where we needed to get at least two runs to tie and take control, and getting one because of the miscue left us continuing to battle up hill.”

After his shaky start Simon was perfect in the third and the fourth, striking out a combined three batters and forcing the others into groundouts. Robinson and Bolduc reached to open the fifth on a single and hit by pitch, but following a sacrifice bunt by Santos, Simon forced two weak ground balls to the right side to escape. During these innings, Simon displayed good movement and a powerful fastball and was consistently able to keep the ball down in the zone, inducing weak contact.

After dancing on the edge, things fell apart for Tolland in the top of the sixth. With one out and Cortorreal on first, Aidan Brennen’s ground ball snuck just through the hole next to second. With Perry at the plate Simon threw two consecutive wild pitches, with the second bouncing off and over Steiner’s glove and scoring Cortorreal. Following a walk, New London manager Thomas Vivirito made a great move, having Robinson and Brennen execute a suicide squeeze to perfection that made it 4-1. Its final run of the inning came when Broadhurst muffed a weak ground ball, scoring Perry.

In both the fifth and sixth, Tolland hit into double plays to end the inning. Right fielder Nick Paasch hit into a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth off a great pitch from Khoury low and inside, and Curtis smacked a hard ground ball right at Robinson at short in the sixth to start the DP.

New London made it 6-1 in the seventh thanks to errors by Broadhurst and Keane. Khoury reached base and advanced to second on a wild throw by Broadhurst and scored when Keane overthrew Curtis at first with two outs.

Tolland scored its second run in the final frame when Slane and Maher opened the inning with a single and double and substitute catcher Kyle Penney recorded a sacrifice fly. It ended the game with eight hits, while New London had just four.

Despite just scoring two runs, Paasch believed that his team took a good approach at the plate.

“I can’t think of many at bats where guys didn’t produce what I wanted. When we got the opportunities, we regularly hit the ball well but right at people,” Paasch said. “At the end of the day, their pitcher mixed speeds and pitches well and had good control. He didn’t help us out at all.”

Paasch praised Simon’s performance, saying that he did a great job of inducing ground balls and poor contact and was able to get out of jams multiple times. Simon was also happy with how he pitched.

“I thought I threw the ball and mixed speeds well and got hitters off balance. Things just didn’t go our way,” he said.

Simon also discussed the errors and defended his teammates.

“The errors didn’t make me lose focus. Those are tough plays to make when the hitters aren’t making solid contact and you have to come in on the ball. That’s baseball.”

Paasch and Simon are both ready to get back on the field against Avon.

“I told the players you just have to erase this game from your minds. I pride on our team on outstanding pitching and defense, and I just told them we have to be ready to play tomorrow at our normal level,” Paasch said. “Two years ago we were able to rebound from an opening loss to advance to the semifinals so we’ve shown before that we could make that run.”

“We’re just going to put this game behind us and move forward. We’ve got good pitching and can make a run. All of us remain confident,” Simon said.

 

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