CROMWELL - Cromwell baseball is challenging the town’s uber-successful basketball programs for school supremacy.
The baseball team is seeking their third straight Class S finals trip, which would best both the boys’ and girls’ basketball programs (who have combined for three championship appearances since 2009). The Panthers baseball team won the championship in 2012 and fell to Oxford in last season’s title game.
The 2014 tournament team is off to a great start, with Cromwell easily defeating their first two opponents and then relying on their outstanding pitching staff to reach the semifinal round.
Their latest tournament triumph was a 2-0 blanking of Somers in the quarterfinal round. Pitcher Jake Regula tallied his fourth shutout in five starts. The senior struck out a season-high 12 of the 23 batters he faced and allowed only two hits--tied for the fewest hits he’s allowed all season.
Cromwell needed Regula’s performance because the team’s bats were not as lively as they were in the tournament’s first two rounds. Mike McNally provided an early boost, advancing to first base on a fielding error in the bottom half of the first inning. He would eventually score later in the inning, giving the Panthers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Kevin Radziewicz later added an insurance run in the sixth inning following a sacrifice grounder by junior Corey Baldwin.
Somers’ pitching ace Adam Donovan held the Panthers lineup to only four hits in the victory, but it was more than enough to advance to within a game of another title shot.
The win over Somers was Cromwell’s third of the tournament. Coach Lewis Pappariella’s squad started the tourney with an 8-0 shutout of Nathan Hale Ray. Junior pitcher Tucker Lord walked only two batters and threw a complete game masterpiece, which included 10 strikeouts.
Lead-off man McNally connected on three hits in four at-bats. His hits included a double and an RBI--one he parlayed into a run-scored. Logan Lessard also hammered a double, which drove in two base runners.
The team followed up their opening round victory with an equally impressive 8-1 walloping of Derby. Lessard assumed the mound in the second-round showdown and struck out nine batters. He added a run scored from the plate.
Cromwell’s early tournament success comes on the heels of a fantastic 17-3 regular season, followed by a Shoreline Conference (SLC) title. They entered the tournament as the second seed, ranked only behind two-loss East Hampton. The top-seeded Bellringers earned a first round bye, but they were upset in East Hampton by 17th ranked Portland in the second round. Oxford (last season’s champs) also were ousted in round two. This clears the path for the hungry Panthers to possibly bring the championship trophy back to Cromwell after a year hiatus.