East Hampton pitcher James Quinn winds up during the Bellringers 9-2 victory over Portland last Thursday. Quinn, a junior, earned the win after throwing five scoreless innings.
East Hampton High School baseball used a five-run fifth inning to take control and cruise to a 9-2 victory over Portland High School on April 20.
First-year head coach Pat Sirois said the team’s offensive fireworks in the fifth inning were sparked by a more aggressive approach at the plate.
“We have been preaching to really focus on driving on fast balls when there are men on base. We want to make sure we don’t fall behind on count and attack fast balls early in counts,” stated Sirois, “I think just honing in on that approach helped us break the game open on that inning.”
After falling behind by a run in the first inning, Jason Johnson had a line-drive single that drove home Gavin Santillo to tie the score at 1-1. Andrew Wagner then singled, scoring David Johnson to give the Bellringers a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the second inning.
The Shoreline Conference (SLC) rivals traded runs in the third and fourth innings before the Bellringers broke the game open in the fifth.
Facing two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Tyler Varni doubled on a hard ground ball into the right gap, scoring both Alex Zimmerman and James Quinn.
Santillo then doubled to center, sending home Andrew Bigelow, before Santillo crossed home plate thanks to a single from Jason Johnson.
East Hampton added an insurance run in the sixth when Quinn scored following a sacrifice fly from freshman Jaxson Hanson.
Quinn earned the win from the mound, pitching five scoreless innings and allowing only one hit while striking out six after relieving starting pitcher Blake Kapernaros.
“He’s been phenomenal whenever we’ve needed him,” Sirois said of his senior lefty. “He can come in and throw strikes, and doesn’t need a warm up. He’s been a great reliever in big situations.”
Quinn and Santillo each scored two runs, while Varni, Wagner, and Jason Johnson each drove in two runs.
Santillo, a shortstop, connected on all three attempts at the plate and is one of four seniors that have helped Sirois settle in during his first spring in the Bellringers’ dugout.
Sirois is former basketball and baseball standout at Cromwell High School, helping the Panthers baseball team win a state championship during his senior season in 2012.
After high school, he played baseball collegiately at Central Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Eastern Connecticut State University.
He most recently coached the Rocky Hill-Cromwell-Portland (RCP) 19U American Legion Baseball team in the summer before taking over an East Hampton program previously coached by Tom Seidl.
The win over Portland marked the team’s third win in nine games this spring and Sirois said the players are starting to get a feel for how he likes to operate.
“It took some time, but they’re buying in,” added Sirois. “All I’ve asked of the kids is to buy-in and give effort. We’re building a winning culture here.”
Among the team’s six losses are a pair of walk-off defeats and another two-run loss.
Sirois said the team is focused on finishing innings, both offensively and defensively in order to turn those close losses into wins.
“We are building that confidence and we are starting to believe in ourselves,” added Sirois. “The other team knows we’re going to give them a hard game and we expect to play with every team in the conference.”
The team has been impressive in the three wins, winning all three games by seven or more runs.
Along with the seven-run win over Portland, they also soundly defeated North Branford (11-4) on April 7 and a shellacked Westbrook (14-4) on April 14.
In the win over North Branford, the Bellringers scored nine runs in the second inning, getting four RBIs from Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also came up big again in the win over Westbrook, hitting a grand slam in the fifth inning, driving in six total runs as the team has their best offensive output of the season.
Next is an away game at Nathan Hale Ray High School in Moodus on Fri., April 28. The Bellringers then return home on Mon., May 1 to welcome Valley Regional to East Hampton High School. First pitch for both games is 4 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin