The East Haven Senior Legion baseball team won three of its final five regular season games to sneak into the State Tournament, where the 89ers won a 3-2, 10-inning decision versus Guilford in their first game before getting eliminated with a 1-0 loss to Meriden on July 16.
East Haven had qualified for states by going 13-10 in Zone 2 play to finish tied for fourth place with Hamden. The 89ers were the last team in the zone to qualify and did so by winning a tiebreaker versus Hamden. Once East Haven got in, the 14th-seeded 89ers made good on their berth by going on the road to defeat No. 11 Guilford by a 3-2 score in 10 innings on July 15. With the game tied at 2 in the 10th, Mark Smith led off with a base hit and was advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a base hit. Frank Longley came up with runners on the corners and hit a sacrifice fly to score Smith with the go-ahead run.
Mike Mancuso started the mound for the 89ers and allowed nine hits in eight innings. The biggest out Mancuso recorded came in the bottom of eighth, when he got a strikeout on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded to extend the game. Nick Kraszewski pitched the final two innings to earn the victory on the hill. Frank Longley had two hits, two runs scored, and a RBI, while Tyler Leone had a hit and a sacrifice fly for East Haven.
“It was a well-played game by both teams. It was very emotional and a great game to be a part of,” Head Coach John Longley said. “After last year [losing 2-1 to Greenwich in states] and Mike not getting a chance to pitch, we were happy he got his playoff start. As a team, I’m glad we got the win.”
Unfortunately, East Haven’s season came to an end in its next game when it dropped a 1-0 decision at No. 6 seed Meriden the following afternoon. East Haven was held to just five hits in the defeat as Jake Ferrara had two, with Kraszewski, Jack Zimmerman, and Dom Delbasso each getting one. Gabe Longley took the hard-luck loss on the mound despite a quality outing in which he allowed three hits.
“They got one across in the second inning when Meriden strung together two hits and a sacrifice fly to get the run in. Besides that, he pitched great and kept everybody off-balance. He located the ball well, moved it around, and pitched a phenomenal game,” Coach Longley said. “1-0 is always a tough loss, and I’m still not over it.”
The 89ers had their chances, most notably in the seventh inning, when they had two men on with one out, but were unable to push the runner across. Earlier in the game, East Haven had a runner thrown out at home trying to score on a fly ball.
“The outfielder made a perfect throw to the plate. It was close, but you have to tip your hat. The kid made a nice throw,” said Longley, whose team finished with an overall record of 14-11 for the season. “It was a very emotional loss. The kids put a lot of time, effort, and energy into this game. I’m proud of them because Meriden was 22-5. They’re a good team, and I don’t think they thought they’d get the battle from us that they got. I’m proud of my kids for competing.”
Leading up to the tournament, East Haven took an 8-6 loss against Orange on July 9. Delbasso belted his first career American Legion home run in the defeat.
Later that day, East Haven faced New Haven and came away with a crucial 5-4 victory. Kraszewski picked up the victory as he allowed two hits on the hill, after which Delbasso came in and recorded a four-out save. Ferrara had two hits, a RBI, and a run scored; Gabe Longley had a hit and a RBI, and Smith had two RBI for the 89ers.
“Dom came up big for us. He usually doesn’t pitch, but we were in tough stretch of season of 15 games in 13 days, so it was tough to manage our pitching,” Coach Longley said. “Some guys that don’t usually pitch had to step up and help us out, and Dom was one. He came up big in that game.”
On July 10, East Haven continued its series with New Haven and notched a 7-1 victory behind a stellar performance from Mancuso, who allowed three hits. Kraszewski got the 89ers’ offense rolling with a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Zimmerman had three hits and a RBI, Leone had a hit and two runs scored, Frank Longley had a hit and a run scored, Gabe Longley had a hit and a RBI, Smith had an RBI, and Ferrara had two hits to lead East Haven’s balanced attack.
East Haven finished the regular season with a doubleheader against Milford on July 12. In the first game, the 89ers came away with a 6-1 victory. Ferrara was the winning pitcher by scattering eight hits as his curveball was working to keep batters off-balance. Kraszewski had two hits, including a double, with two RBI. Gabe Longley had a hit and a RBI, Zimmerman and a hit with two runs scored, and Luzzi had a pair of hits.
Milford won the second game of the doubleheader, 4-3. Zimmerman had three hits and a run scored, and Ferrara and Gabe Longley both had a hit with an RBI for East Haven.