Jun. 6—WATERFORD — Art Peluso and his baseball team spent Friday afternoon at practice, listening to the rhythms of Waterford’s state playoff softball game on the adjacent field. He knew the circumstances of what became a brutal loss for his school, seeing the remorse of missed opportunity.
And so came Saturday afternoon when the baseball Lancers were in what winning pitcher Connor Podeszwa later called a “grinder.” There was much to overcome for fourth-seeded Waterford in its bid to advance and eventually win title No. 12.
“When you have the opportunities you need to take advantage of them,” Peluso was saying after Waterford 4, No. 21 Sheehan 2. “You’re not always going to do that. The key is what your mindset is after you don’t take advantage. Do you put the tail between the legs and shut it down? That’s the tricky part of baseball. We took advantage today at times. We had other times we didn’t. But we didn’t hang our heads. It helps to have No. 14 (Podeszwa).”
The Lancers (19-2) will play top-seeded East Catholic in Tuesday semifinals at Muzzy Field at 7 p.m.
The Eagles routed No. 9 Weston, 19-1, in its quarterfinal.
Podeszwa pitched a complete game three-hitter. He struck out seven and walked three, a pitching line that suggested he was in control. Except he wasn’t. Peluso called the reason for that “the human element” of the game, which is a polite way of questioning the home plate umpire’s strike zone.
“Connor had to overcome a lot,” Peluso said. “His stuff was spot on. He was hitting spots. He had to fight through the human element of baseball.”
Podeszwa: “I’ve got to work with the umpire. Not the other way around.”
Podeszwa kept the game scoreless in the top of the fifth, working around Charles Ennis’ leadoff double. The Lancers scored four times in the bottom of the inning.
Connor Rowe reached on an error that scored Mason Concasia, who walked and went to second on Logan Avin’s second successful sacrifice bunt. Podeszwa drove home pinch runner Preston Tabor with a sacrifice fly before Will Rocchetti took the game’s biggest swing, hammering a two-run double to left scoring Rowe and Ryan Salvador.
“It’s been a little frustrating in the state tournament putting guys on base and sometimes coming up short,” Rocchetti said. “I tried to sit back on it and stayed straight through.”
Sheehan scored two runs in the sixth on a throwing error with the bases loaded. Two runs scored, but first baseman Evan McCue ran down the ball near the Sheehan dugout and threw home in time to nail Chris Barkasy, who tried to score from first.
And now the Lancers get to play the unfamiliar role of underdog Tuesday against the state’s No. 1 team.
“We’ve got to play our best,” Podeszwa said. “I hope they play their best, too.”
Rocchetti: “We’re the underdogs. But we’re not afraid of anything.”
Peluso: “We’re always the underdog. You look around, let’s face it. All you hear about is the SCC (Southern Connecticut Conference), the CCC (Central Connecticut Conference). East Catholic, Notre Dame, St. Joe’s … we play a good brand of baseball down here, too. No. 14 (Podeszwa) can compete with anybody in this state including the Catholic schools. It’s baseball. Anything can happen. We’ve got 11 of those banners up. But they don’t matter right now. This is going to be a challenge.”