Panthers Hardball in the Hunt
Cromwell's Tyler Baldwin hurries back to first base to beat the tag from Sheehan's Kevin Vining
Cromwell baseball entered the 2018 season following consecutive Shoreline Conference titles and this year they have the tools and experience to make it a three-peat…and possibly more.
Entering the week the Panthers are 9-6, including a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Sheehan on Fran Monnes Field at CHS last Monday.
“It was nice to see us compete. Going down three runs we showed some resiliency, which I really liked,” said head coach Lewis Pappariella, “I feel like we’re starting to jell a little bit and if we keep getting everyone hitting and playing good defense we should be fine.”
Jack Dooley doubled, driving in Noah Budzik for the go-ahead run in the fifth inning.
“I was proud of the guys today because we were aggressive. We talked about being aggressive when guys are on base and I liked the way that we swung the bat with men in scoring position,” added Pappariella, “That was a big step in the right direction. I feel like we’ve been a little bit hesitant and looking for somebody else to do it and today we had guys that wanted to swing in those spots. It’s encouraging to see.”
Pitcher Tyler Baldwin polished off the rally with a strikeout. The sophomore earned the win after relieving starting pitcher Nick Polizonis on the mound
“He did a great job coming in against a tough team when the margin of error was limited. He came in and showed a lot of toughness and I’m proud of him. That was one of his first chances on the mound this year and he really saved us today,” Pappariella said of Baldwin, who has assumed a large role this season, “He’s a leadoff batter, a guy that comes in spots when the game is close and he’s able to pitch. He’s improved leaps and bounds in the way that he believes in himself and the confidence he has.”
Sheehan came to Cromwell winning only one game in their first dozens tries but gave the Panthers everything they could handle, taking a three-run lead early and holding a 5-4 advantage in the fifth inning.
Jared Valentin scored on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth and two batters later Dooley sent home Budzik for the eventual game-winner.
“They did a great job early on,” Pappariella said of the Wallingford-based Titans, “I think sometimes our approach to the game is a little laissez-faire, a little flat but we have to be inspired to come out and win every game. We’re back-to-back Shoreline champions and it feels sometimes that we’re just waiting to play in bigger games later in the season instead of attacking every single opportunity to get better and get a win.”
The victory over Sheehan snapped a two-game losing skid for Cromwell, who started the season winning their first five games thanks to a strong pitching rotation. The Panthers returned all their pitching talent from a season ago. Budzik has led the experienced group, which includes Dooley, Valentin, Baldwin, Austin Roy, and Zach Lombardo.
“Lately we haven’t been ourselves defending. We’re not fielding the ball as good as we normally do and we’re giving teams some extra outs and it hurt us against Old Saybrook,” stated Pappariella, referring to a 4-3 loss at Old Saybrook on April 29, “But today we came out and played pretty clean defensively.”
Next up is a home game against rival Morgan on Fri, May 11 at 3:45 p.m.
Cromwell easily defeated the Huskies by ten runs in Clinton in mid-April and the rematch will be one of the last tune-ups before Pappariella and his Panthers defend their conference title and before the Class S tourney begins later in May.
“We have to be hungry every time out because our league is good and it’s deep. Anybody can beat anybody and we have to be ready to play every single time out.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin