WEST GROTON — On a night when Ernie Banks would have refused to play, Piccolino and H & V finished off the best-of-five championship series with Piccolino sloshing through a persistent drizzle and a wind-driven rain to pick up the Nashua River Valley League title with an 11-8 win.
The weather was somewhat of a factor in the game, but in the end the culprit for H & V might have been adventurous base running, which cost them two outs at the plate and one at second base at key junctures of the game. After digging a deep early hole, H & V never quit, but those three outs short-circuited rallies and proved to be the difference.
Piccolino made a statement in the top of the first when it came out swinging and took a 4-0 lead against H & V pitcher Mike Morrell. Craig Delisle and Nick Cavaioli set the table with singles to put runners on first and second. After a flyout, Jayson Bartelson’s run-scoring single and Ryan Lambert’s RBI double made it 2-0. Sean Trainor then doubled the lead with a two-run single.
H & V got one run back in the bottom of the inning against Piccolino pitcher Derek Blanchette when Lou Testa singled and came around to score on Nate Bowolick’s two-out triple.
Piccolino padded the lead in the top of the second. Jake Aponte walked, Brad Gionet reached on an error, and Delisle singled to load the bases with no outs. Cavaioli delivered a sacrifice fly before Blanchette plated Gionet with a single to make it 6-1.
H & V again got one run back in the bottom of the inning, but it could have been more. Shawn Herrick and Keith Eaton led off with singles, and Russ Drew drilled a single to left center field. Herrick challenged left center fielder Bartelson, who fired a strike to catcher Gionet for the first out of the inning. Dave Skoczylas plated Eaton with a two-out single to make it 6-2.
A three-spot in the top of the third extended Piccolino’s lead. With one out, Nick Novak and Jim Quinty singled before a walk to Aponte loaded the bases. After Gionet hit a sacrifice fly, a two-run single by Delisle made it 9-2.
Piccolino tacked another run on to the lead in the top of the fourth when Bartelson tripled and scored on Lambert’s sacrifice fly.
On the brink of being blown out of it, H & V battled back into the game in the bottom of the inning. Eaton doubled, Drew singled, and Corey Bazillion reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Piccolino third baseman Nick Novak fielded a ground ball and fired to home to erase the lead runner. Blanchette appeared primed to escape when he induced a fly ball for the second out, but Testa drew a run-producing walk, and K.J. Churchill followed with a two-run single to make it 10-5. Cavaioli came up big from his left center field position, making a great running catch of Bowolick’s long drive to prevent further damage.
Morrell kept H & V in it by tossing goose eggs in the fifth and sixth innings, aided by Bowolick hauling down a Bartelson bullet near the fence with a running catch.
In the bottom of the fifth, Hebert tripled to lead off and scored on Herrick’s double. Blanchette did a nice job of stranding a runner in scoring position by retiring the next three hitters.
In the bottom of the sixth, Skoczylas led off with a walk and came around to score on an error to make it 10-7, but another H & V runner was tossed out at the plate to keep the three-run lead intact.
Piccolino added an unearned insurance run in the top of the seventh when Lambert reached on an error and scored on Quinty’s two-out single.
H & V stirred around in the top of the seventh when Bowolick led off by reaching on an error. After a groundout, Herrick singled but was thrown out trying for second. Eaton singled but a flyout sealed the deal.
Delisle paced Piccolino with four singles, two runs scored and two RBI. Bartelson singled, tripled and scored two runs while Quinty added two singles, a run scored and an RBI.
Herrick led H & V with two singles, a double and an RBI. Bowolick had a double, triple, a run scored and an RBI while Drew added a pair of singles and a run scored.