WORCESTER, Mass. - The Southington American Legion baseball team needed a hero to help fight off elimination in Thursday’s Northeast Regional Tournament game against Hampden, Maine, and it found one during a tie game in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Knotted at two apiece with two outs in the top of the sixth, Kyle Leifert smacked a bases-clearing triple to open up a tight game and give new hope to Southington’s tournament hopes after a 6-2 comeback victory, ensuring Southington would play at least another day. The team is scheduled to face the loser of Cumberland, Rhode Island and Lawrence, Massachusetts on Friday at 9:30 a.m.
Hampden jumped out to an early 2-0 in the bottom of the first before Brendan Kavanaugh relieved Jacob Weed and escaped a bases-loaded jam before cruising the rest of the way, allowing just one hit through 6 2/3 innings while Southington clawed its way back.
Southington tied the game in the top of the third, jumping on Hampden pitcher Jackson Thayer for two runs after a leadoff walk to Ethan McDonough and a single by Connor Patenaude sparked a rally. Sean Crean followed and sent a potential rally-killing double play out towards shortstop, but Andrew Partridge couldn’t come up with the grounder, allowing Southington to load the bases.
Leifert brought in Southington’s first run with a sacrifice fly before Jeremy Mercier tied the game with a two-out single to score Crean, knotting the score at two apiece, which held until the sixth inning.
With Thayer still in the game for Hampden, Southington appeared to be silenced for another scoreless frame when Thayer retired the first two batters he faced in the inning. With two outs and the bases empty, Southington went to work, using a single from McDonough and a walk to Patenaude to put a pair of runners on and an end to Thayer’s afternoon. Hampden called on Jacques Labonte to relieve Thayer, but Labonte immediately hit Crean with a pitch to load the bases for Leifert, who wasted no time in breaking the game open, jumping on the first pitch and lacing it to right for a bases-clearing triple to give Southington a three-run lead and new life in the tournament.
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org