Baseball: Stratford tops Bunnell, now plays waiting game

Cam Smith had a base hit to knock in two runs for Stratford in the third inning. — David G. Whitham photo

The Stratford High baseball team must now play a waiting game following its 3-1 win on Thursday over city rival Bunnell before a good turnout at Penders Field.

The 11-9 Red Devils are vying for the eighth and final position available for the South-West Conference playoffs, which are likely to begin on either Saturday or Monday.

Weather conditions are not favorable for a Saturday start with all-day showers in the forecast.

Stratford faced a must-win situation with Bunnell and will now wait for the outcome of a game between Immaculate of Danbury (12-6) and Pomperaug of Middlebury (7-12).

The two teams were scheduled to meet on Thursday in Middlebury, but poor field conditions postponed the game All Danbury schools will be closed on Friday as work crews continue a clean-up following Tuesday’s storm which knocked out power to most of the region.

School officials, however, have applied to the CIAC so that they can play on Friday. If Pomperaug wins the game, the Panthers will receive the final spot.

“We did what we needed to do and all we can do now is wait,”said Stratford coach Mick Buckmir. “I’m always preaching that you win games by playing good defense, getting good pitching along with timely hitting. That played out for us today.”

Stratford got a two-run scoring single from designated hitter Cam Smith in the third inning to push across the tying and eventual winning runs.

Starting and winning pitcher Brendan Duffy backed it up with a complete game (102 pitch effort) while allowing only four hits. En route to bringing his record to 3-3, he struck  out seven and gave up three walks.

Stratford’s defense turned two double plays.

First baseman Ray McIlhoney stopped what a potential double by Bunnell’s Tyler Vancho in the sixth and turned it into a DP when he stepped on the bag before throwing to second baseman Logan Zezima, who tagged out a sliding Justin Herrera  who had reached on a walk.

Brendan Duffy was on the front-end of a first-inning double play. After Tyler Cartagena singled to center on the first pitch of the game, Emilo Jasso’s attempted bunt was caught by Duffy who doubled Cartagena off first.

Bunnell took a 1-0 lead in the second when Alex Koletar’s ball to the outfield was misplayed and brought Dylan Kovacs home from second. Kovacs had singled with two outs.

Brendan Duffy closed out the inning when Ryan Nelson popped out to Zezima at second.

Stratford got a run in the second on Gabe Avila’s single, before Smith drove in R.J. Burlone (single) and Kevan Duffy (reached on an error) in the third.

Smith and Braydon Seaberg had two hits apiece for Stratfor, which had eight in the game.

Koletar pitched into the sixth for Bunnell, before being relieved by Cartagena who had four strikeouts while facing seven batters.

“We were going to intentionally walk Smith in the third, then I changed by mind,” said Bunnell coach Juan Lopez. “So, I blame myself for what happened there. And we took ourselves out of an inning in the first on the missed bunt.”

But the Bulldogs have played well in Lopez’s first season as their head coach. If Bunnell is able to beat Harding on Monday, the Bulldogs will qualify for the Class L state tourney for the first time in three years.

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