Guilford Notches Two Playoff Wins Before Losing in League Final
The Guilford 19-U AAU baseball squad had a season to feel proud about by notching 14 wins and advancing to its league championship game this summer. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Ametrano)
Andrew Shosho and the Guilford 19-U AAU baseball team won their first two games in the East Shore Travel League Playoffs before losing to the NCT Mustangs in the championship game on Aug. 13. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
Chris Golino hit a walk-off single to Guilford to a 4-3 victory over New England Knights Zima in the quarterfinals of the East Shore Travel League Playoffs. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier)
After finishing its regular season with 12 victories, the Guilford 19-U AAU baseball team entered the East Shore Travel League Playoffs as the No. 4 seed in the single-elimination tournament. Head Coach Ryan Fraser’s squad earned two wins in the tourney to advance to the championship game, where the Grizzlies took a loss against the NCT Mustangs.
Guilford had earned a 4-3 win versus New England Knights Zima and 4-1 victory over Run & Gun Baseball to make it to the title game before losing to the NCT Mustangs by a 10-0 score in the final. Despite the defeat, Coach Fraser wants everyone on his young club to feel proud about the success that they had this year. Guilford finished its summer season with an overall record of 14-8-1.
“To finish in second place and go 14-8-1 in a 19-U league with a 17-and-younger team is something the boys should be very proud of,” said Fraser. “I cannot thank my dad and mom enough. My dad [an assistant coach] was always finding ways to make the kids better and donated a lot of his time in buying into these players’ success. We do not have this type of season without his consistent hard work and leadership.”
The Grizzlies opened the East Shore Travel League Playoffs by hosting the No. 5 seed, New England Knights Zima, for a quarterfinal game at Guilford High School on Aug. 11. Guilford won the contest in walk-off fashion by the final score of 4-3 to move on to the semis.
Guilford claimed its dramatic victory when Chris Golino singled home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Mike Torre had two singles in the game, while Sam Ametrano had a single and a double for the Grizzlies.
Andrew Shosho started on the mound for Guilford and allowed just three hits and one run over five innings, recording five strikeouts. Torre pitched two innings in relief and struck out four to get the win.
“It was pitch dark in the bottom of the seventh when we hit. You couldn’t see a thing,” Coach Fraser said. “This is a win that just accumulated the buy-in and hard work that the guys have put in since day one. Credit to the New England Knights. They kept battling and didn’t make the game easy for us. I’m just so proud of my guys for sticking with the coaching staff’s message and believing that we would find a way.”
On Aug. 13, Guilford faced top-seeded Run & Gun Baseball in the semifinals and notched a 4-1 victory at the Connecticut Sportsplex in North Branford. Shosho led off the second inning with a solo home run to give Guilford a 1-0 lead. Guilford added runs in the fourth, sixth, and seventh innings to bring a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh, where Run & Gun scored its lone run of the game.
Ametrano got the start and earned the win after fanning seven batters in 6.1 innings of work. Aiden McBrierty came on in relief to get the last two outs of the game. Shosho finished 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI in the victory.
“We played one of our best games of the year against Run & Gun. Sam was masterful on the mound, keeping guys off-balance throughout the night and forcing swings and misses,” said Fraser. “Sammy was a bulldog for us all year and didn’t want to come out of the game. That’s the type of competitor he is. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached, and it showed in a big spot.”
Later that same day, Guilford played the 2nd-seeded NCT Mustangs with the league title on the line and took a 10-0 defeat at the Sportsplex. The Mustangs scored 9 of their 10 runs between the second and third innings. Torre had a single and Joe Tafro hit a double to account for the Grizzlies’ two hits in the game.
“The boys were emotionally and physically drained after the big win in the game before, and it showed. I am not going to make any excuses, though, because the Mustangs earned that win,” Fraser said. “Credit to the Mustangs. That is a solid program and team that can compete with any team in the state. They have a lot of guys playing at the next level and will have successful careers in the future.”
Guilford’s roster for the 2021 season featured Colby Ambroziak, Sam Ametrano, Aiden McBrierty, Jack Farrah, Chris Golino, Ryan Halas, Colin Pompano, Andrew Shosho, Joe Tafro, Mike Torre, Alex Vincent, and Tyler Zajkowski. Coach Fraser’s assistant coach was his father, John Fraser.
Golino finished in team lead for batting average by posting a mark of .377 for the season. Torre led the Grizzlies in RBI and runs scored with 22 apiece to go with a team-best 16 stolen bases.
Looking back, Coach Fraser feels proud what his squad accomplished on the ballfield this summer and thanks everyone who helped the Grizzlies get there.
“As a whole, I am just so proud of the guys. It was an honor and a dream come true to coach alongside my father in the town that I grew up and played for with these players and families,” said Fraser. “The unwavering support from the parents this year was unmatched and something that I am eternally grateful for. The growth that we made this year as a team was something that I am very proud of and hope the players will continue on into the spring season.”
Coach Fraser was pleased with how his team progressed in several areas as the season unfolded. Those improvements helped Guilford go on a ride that took the team all the way to its league championship game.
“In the beginning of the year, we struggled defensively, with situational hitting, leadership, knowing what to do when the ball was hit to us, and winning close games. All of those things we did a phenomenal job at in the playoffs to help us with those two games,” Fraser said. “That is growth that I am very proud of as a coach. The grittiness, hard base-running on every play, and ability to do the little things helped us win games. The boys must continue to do that to continue the success that we had this summer as a group.”