American Legion: Post 86 Juniors battling for final state playoff spot

Despite a frustrating 4-2 loss at Fairfield on Tuesday, the Wilton Post 86 American Legion Junior baseball team remains in the hunt for post-season play.

Not bad for a team that started the season 0-9, and at one point was 1-11.

Post 86 turned things around to win seven of nine game before Tuesday’s game against Fairfield. That loss dropped Wilton to 8-13, one game Darien/New Canaan in the battle for the last playoff spot for Zone 4 in the state tournament.

Wilton ends the regular season on Saturday with a game at Greenwich in the morning and at home against Westport at 3. With two wins and a Darien/New Canaan loss, or one win and two Darien/New Canaan losses, Post 86 would get the final zone spot for the state playoffs, which begin Monday.

“We’re hoping the the baseball gods will smile on us and we’ll sneak into the playoffs,” said head coach Vinny Carlucci, whose team has had to overcome a slow start, injuries and three one-run losses (two in extra innings) to get to this point.

“We’ve had a lot of tough losses, and we’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries. We’ve had to go soft with our pitchers, not overextending their arms and keeping them to 60 pitches,” said Carlucci, who coaches the team along with Rich Sammon. “Take away some of those losses and we’re not in this situation.”

In the past week, the Junior Legion squad recorded a 7-4 win over Westport last Wednesday; a 1-0 win over Westport last Thursday; and a 2-1 win over Fairfield on Monday. Wilton also lost to Fairfield on Sunday, 6-4.

The 17-U team is a combined Wilton/Weston roster. Wilton players included Connor Burke, Brendan Connor, Patrick Cummins, William Holmquist, Regan Kahal, Ethan Leinberger, Ben Olson, Jordan Sayewitz and Nick Sheehan. The Weston players are Vaughn Campos, Jake Derene, Noah Haberman, Daniel Ielusic, Aidan Kyle, Scott Lyon, Roman Scavone and Caeden Taibe.

Wilton opened the season against the top three teams in Zone 4 — Greenwich, Stamford and Trumbull — and were 0-9 before beating Darien/New Canaan, 10-0, on June 21 on a three-hit shutout by Cummins.

“We have a young team this year compared to the other teams. We started to come together and grow and do the little things to keep the team winning,” said Carlucci of the team’s performance in the second half of the season. “They really came along as a group and as individuals.”

Fairfield loss

In Tuesday’s game at Kiwanis Field in Fairfield, Wilton pitchers gave up only two hits, but a combination of walks (seven), hit batsmen (two) and wild pitches (five) allowed Fairfield to score four runs without the benefit of a base hit.

Post 86 took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second when Connor led off with a single, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Olson.

Fairfield threatened in the second when Jack Bigonette reached third with one out on a single, stolen base and balk, but Post 86 starter Roman Scavone got the next two batters to preserve the 1-0 lead.

Fairfield tied the game in the third on a hit batsman, error and wild pitch. Further damage was mitigated when catcher Kahal gunned down a runner trying to steal second with a perfect throw.

Fairfield went up 2-1 in the fourth on a walk, balk, sacrifice bunt, and another wild pitch. The lead held up until the sixth inning, as Fairfield starter Nick Parisi retired nine of 10 batters.

In the top of the sixth, Ielusic led off with a walk to start Wilton’s game-tying rally. Pinch runner Kyle went all the way to third on a bunt by Campos, and scored on an RBI single by Lyon.

An infield single off the pitcher’s glove by Haberman, and throwing error, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but Lyon was called out at the plate, on a very close call, on a well-timed attempt to steal home.

Fairfield took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two runs on five walks, to lead 4-2. Wilton’s final at-bat saw Olson drill a line drive over the left fielder’s head for a double, and Kahal walk, to put the tying runs on base with one out. But relief pitcher Nick Scaglione struck out the final two batters to seal the win.

Offensively, Post 86 was led by Olson, who was 2-for-2 with a walk, double and RBI. Getting one hit each were Connor (single, RBI), Scavone (single), Lyon (single, RBI) and Haberman. Ielusic and Kahal each had a walk, and Kyle scored a run.

Parisi got the win for Fairfield, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks over six and one-third innings, striking out two. Scaglione went two-thirds of an inning, with one walk and two strikeouts.

Earlier games

Wilton was coming off a big 2-1 walk-off victory over Fairfield on Monday at home. Connor got the win with a complete-game performance, allowing one run on six hits and one walk, with three strikeouts. Kahal’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh drove in the game-winner.

At the plate, Holmquist went 2-for-3 with an RBI, with other hits by Ielusic and Kahal. Cumming and Sayewitz (run) each had a walk.

Last Thursday, Sayewitz and Lyon combined for the shutout in a 1-0 win over Westport. Sayewitz allowed no runs over six innings, giving up two hits and three walks, with five strikeouts. Lyon closed out the final inning, striking out two and allowing no hits.

Connor (2-for-3) scored the game’s only run in the top of the fourth. Campos also had a hit.

The day before that, Wilton defeated Westport 7-4 despite only two base hits, as Westport committed five errors and gave up three unearned runs.

Cummins got the win, going four and two-thirds innings and allowing no runs and no hits. He walked three and struck out three. Haberman pitched the next two innings (four runs on five hits and four walks) and Lyon closed out the win by retiring the only batter he faced in the seventh.

In the loss to Fairfield on Sunday, Post 86 took a 4-0 lead into the sixth behind a strong effort by Olson, who allowed no runs on four hits and two walks, with five strikeouts, in his five innings on the mound. Fairfield plated six runs (four unearned) in the bottom of the sixth, with Bigonette’s three-run double breaking a 3-3 tie.