It was a cloudy afternoon that seemed to tempt rain at every turn -- and it finally delivered in droves. Heavy rain hit Muzzy Field in Bristol just seconds after Nick Fusco's pitching gave the Orange American Legion Post 127 seniors a Final 16 tournament shut-out against West Hartford.
"I've had faith in Fusco all season," said coach Bob Mirto as players huddled in the dugout to avoid the downpour drenching the field. "I know exactly what he's capable of. But this is the biggest stage he's ever pitched on."
Fusco and West Hartford pitcher Matt Dorsi dueled through scoreless early innings, and Dorsey seemed comfortable on the mound with eight strikeouts in his first five innings. (Fusco entered the game 6-0, Dorsi 5-0.) But Orange scored in the top of the fifth inning after first baseman Mark Boland was hit by a ball with the bases loaded.
From there, Fusco spent four innings quickly retiring West Hartford's hitters, while West Hartford tried third baseman George Lund and catcher Nick Miceli against Orange, to no avail. A two-RBI hit from Teddy Ballou put Boland and Nick Baviello over the plate.
Mirto said he's more impressed every day with the teamwork he's seeing in the infield. In particular, Boland and Baviello work as well as a team on first and second base as they do in the lineup.
"We're just starting to get in stride now," said Mirto about his infield, "and that's a good time to get into stride."
Orange will play Avon, who won this morning against Oakville, tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in Bristol. Mirto is optimistic about his team's chances against the third-place Zone 1 qualifiers.
"We got Concato [pitcher Mike Concato] going, and we feel pretty good. But we'll see, you know? We gotta bring the game."