Ellington 15U Team Edged by Stamford in Legion Championship Game

MERIDEN – The Ellington 15U American Legion squad saw a tough ending to their great season on Sunday in the 15U State Championship game. Stamford rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the 6th to defeat Ellington 3-2 at Ceppa Field.

The championship was a pitcher’s battle between Ellington starter Jack Steed and Mike Iorfino. The pair held each offense scoreless for the first four innings, with Steed escaping from a single jam in the bottom of the second. With runners on second and third base with one out, Steed obtained a strikeout and forced a groundball. The lefty displayed good control and ball movement throughout is 5 1/3 innings, frequently forcing weak contact.

Iorfino matched Steed pitch for pitch during the first four frames, but Ellington (27-5) was finally able to break through in the fifth thanks to quality patience and strategic play. A trio of hitters drew walks, Jordan Terry and Steed stole bases after reaching, and a smooth sacrifice bunt was laid down. Chris Uzupes put Ellington on the board with a sacrifice fly, with Terry maneuvering around the tag of catcher Kyle Morrell. Iorfino escaped from the inning by getting Mike Wearne to ground out.

In the top of the sixth, a leadoff line drive double by Matt Mateya to left field helped set up Ellington’s second run. Following the hit, Sam Wheeler laid down a bunt single down the third base line that advanced Mateya. John Wrynn smacked a sacrifice fly to give his squad a 2-0 lead. Ellington was unable to take advantage of its momentum however, as the offense stranded runners at second and third by striking and grounding out.

“I wouldn’t say we struggled in scoring situations, but we had an opportunity in the fourth inning and then in the sixth. You have to give a lot of credit to Mike Iorfino for the game he pitched,” Mateya said. “He is a great pitcher and he got the better of us in those situations.”
In the bottom of the frame, Ellington’s relief pitchers lost all control, setting up Stamford’s (26-5) comeback. After the inning began with Kyle Nicholson reaching second on a pop fly which fell in left field and eluded Josh Thibodeau, Steed bore down and obtained outs on an infield popup and fly out. He was unable to finish out the inning, however, having reached the 90-pitch limit. He ended the day having allowed 4 hits while striking out 5.

“Jack was effective because he threw a high percentage of 1st pitch strikes and mixed his pitches well,” head coach Chris Mateya said. “He did a great job of keeping the batters off balance. He was throwing his curveball for strikes when he needed to.

Wearne was the first Ellington reliever to take the mound. From the moment Wearne entered the game, it was clear he was having difficulty locating his pitches and hitting the strike zone. Wearne fell behind each of the four batters he faced and allowed them free passes, with each player exhibiting great patience and a strong batting eye. Mikael Petersen’s walk made the score 2-1, and Kyle Kipp’s tied the game. Ellington head coach Chris Mateya replaced Wearne with Shawn Gentilcore. Iorfino recorded Stamford’s sixth consecutive walk following a tense at-bat, putting Stamford up 3-2. Gentilcore finally ended the inning with a strikeout of Christopher Gattuso.

“We dominated the game in every aspect [until I took Steed out]. Then, we blew a 2-0 lead and went down without Stamford even earning it,” Chris Mateya said. “I should have pulled my second pitcher one or two batters earlier-that was my coaching mistake.

“I don’t know why Mike struggled so much-maybe he was too amped up? That would be a question for him. He pitched great for us all season and never had an experience like that. His control was very good and he was one of my best players. He just didn’t have it that day.”

Ellington put together a valiant comeback effort in the seventh that unfortunately fell short. After Iorfino quickly recorded two outs, he was removed due to the pitch limit, with Kipp moving from second to the mound. Wearne quickly jumped un a pitch, smacking a single. With Mateya up he stole second base, just beating Morrell’s throw. Mateya laid off multiple close pitches to draw a walk, and John Wrynn tapped a dribbler down the third base line to reach first and load the bases. Luke Wearne’s game ending at-bat concluded in one of the most painful fashions possible, as Kipp was rewarded with a strikeout on a check swing by Wearne with the count 2-2. The call was made by the first base umpire, as the home plate ump asked for support.

With the 3-2 win, Stamford’s 15U program won its third state championship in four seasons. In addition to earning the win and driving in the winning run, Iorfino was named the State Tournament MVP.

“We ended the game with more hits, less errors, more sacrifice bunts, 2 sacrifice flys. More walks is what killed us—-all in the same inning,” Mateya said.

Matt Mateya was 2-2 with a single and a double, walk, and a sacrifice bunt. Wheeler also had two hits.

Before losing in the championship game, Ellington went on a very impressive tournament run. It won five games against Tolland, West Hartford, RCP, and Avon twice. In the tournament, the team averaged just over six runs per game while allowing three.

“Our offense was the number one reason we advanced to the finals, but our pitching was very good and our defense was great to. I also feel our fundamentals were sound,” Mateya said. “Bottom line is we just didn’t finish the championship game. Losing a 2-run lead with four outs to go hurts.”

The Ellington 15u squad joined its 19u one in making a run to a championship game/series and having outstanding overall seasons. Mateya discussed what the team’s success meant to the Ellington American Legion program as a whole.

“I feel it means that the Ellington program is sound from top to bottom and it’s a reflection of all of the hard work Coach Kidd (19U), Coach Laughlan (17U), and myself have put into this program to make it what it is today.  With our 17U program winning a state title last year and our 15U and 19U program making it to the state finals this year, I hope we have created a buzz where more players would like to be involved in the program. I think it’s important for all of our players to see how exciting American Legion baseball is and the opportunities that come with the hard work and success of the program.”

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *