Legion baseball: Zach Piroh steps up for Post 42

Zach Piroh pitched Stratford to a 3-1 victory over Orange in Zone 2 action. — Andy Hutchison photos

Although Zach Piroh had not taken the mound in more than a year, the Stratford American Legion baseball player was happy to pitch in when Post 42 hosted Orange Post 127 in the first game of a double header at Penders Field on June 15.

Piroh battled for 6 2/3 innings, before having to be removed due to pitch count regulations after he exceeded 100, and Stratford went on to win 3-1.

“It’s huge,” said coach Mike Della Vecchia, who is looking forward to more players stepping up and starting games on the hill, out of their regular positions, during Zone 2 action this summer.

He has no choice given that Stratford has only three starting pitchers, half of what Della Vecchia is accustomed to having in place, for the truncated summer slate in which teams play a handful of times each week for about a month.

Patrick Browne takes a threw from Anthony Herman in center field and tags out Orange’s Zach Cole.

“I always have six starters and a couple other guys for bullpen relief,” Della Vecchia said. “This year I don’t even have that. We have a very compressed schedule so we’re looking for anybody to step up. We’ll see how things go and hope for the best.”

The effort by Piroh provides reason for optimism.

Orange, which had beaten Stratford 3-2 at home with a season-opening walkoff win two days earlier, had men on base in every inning but could only manufacture one run.

Piroh allowed just four hits, walked five and hit three batters, striking out five along the way.

“It’s tough. I get a little nervous when there’s a guy on second or something in a tie game. I always find my way out of it somehow,” said Piroh, who throws a fastball, curve, change and knuckle ball. “I was really dependent on my curve today.”

“Zach’s a competitor and I admire that about him. He’ll do anything for the team,” Della Vecchia said.

Della Vecchia is pleased that, in addition to regular pitchers Christian Bradley, Jonathan Brooks and Jonathan Och, the other ten players on the roster are all willing to toe the rubber.

“It says a lot about guys if they say they’ll take the ball and pitch. It’s good for the morale of the team,” Della Vecchia said. “If they’ve got an arm they can throw.”

Piroh, who had switched exclusively to playing the corner infield positions for the past year or so, made things interesting but kept Orange from cashing in on its opportunities.

Orange put two men on base in the first inning on a hit batter and walk, but Piroh escaped behind an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.

In the second, he worked around two singles and a wild pitch with one out as third baseman Adam Wojenski, who had a nice game in the field, made two plays on grounders to end the frame.

Stratford scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and scored its first two runs without the benefit of a hit.

Wojenski walked and capitalized on an error for the first run.

Orange threatened to tie the game in the top of the fourth, but center fielder Anthony Herman fielded a base hit and threw to catcher Patrick Browne to nail the base runner.

In the last of the fourth, Piroh was hit by a pitch and Herman walked to set the table.

Bradley hit a grounder to second base and a throwing error in an effort to nab Herman sliding into second, allowed Piroh to come all the way around to score.

Stratford played more small ball and got some more help to produce its third run, in the fifth.

Wojenski led off with a walk and took second on a passed ball.

Connor Anstis put down a perfect bunt for Stratford’s only hit of the game, and a throwing error allowed Wojenski to score on the play.

Orange produced its run in the sixth with a pair of walks and a single. Browne threw out a would-be base stealer at third, and, after a hit batter, Piroh got a pop out and strikeout to work out of trouble.

In the seventh, Orange had a single but Piroh and reliever Tommy Fernandes shut the door.

A Stratford infield error, after Fernandes entered, put two runners on base before Fernandes got a grounder to end it.

“We’ll come around. Guys have to get used to the wood bat coming off high school,” Della Vecchia said.

Stratford dropped the second game of the doubleheader with Orange, 7-3. Anstis had a single and a two-run double.

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