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Senior captain Steve Galluba and the North Branford baseball team clinched a bid in the Class S State Tournament by earning a 4-3 victory against Old Saybrook on April 24. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior pitcher Bret Fee and the T-Birds moved to 9-3 on the year by winning two of their three games last week. Fee picked up the win on the mound when the T-Birds defeated Old Saybrook to make states. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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The North Branford baseball team solidified its place in the Class S State Tournament while improving to 9-3 overall after winning two of its three games last week. The T-Birds started their week with a 10-4 victory in Old Lyme and then clinched their playoff bid by posting a 4-3 home win over Old Saybrook. North Branford then took a 5-4 defeat at Hale-Ray in its final game of the stretch.
After sweating it out to make states in recent years, Head Coach Billy Mitchell is happy that North Branford qualified with room to spare this season. Coach Mitchell and company can now focus on qualifying for the Shoreline Conference Tournament, while also getting some younger guys pivotal experience during the latter half of the campaign.
“It’s very important. I’m going to move a couple guys around to get them ready for the postseason. I have a couple of freshmen on the varsity team, and I’m going to get them some work,” Coach Mitchell said. “Now, our first priority is to make the Shoreline Tournament and attempt to win that, and then go to states from there. It’s good clinching early.”
North Branford started off last week by notching a 10-4 win at Old Lyme on April 23. Junior John Pollock pitched a complete game to earn his fourth win of the year on the bump. North Branford went down 2-0 early, but tied the game in the third. Senior Gio Parillo led off with a single and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Senior Colin Baxter doubled home Parillo, after which senior captain Carl Jacobson drove in Baxter on a two-bagger.
After Old Lyme took a 3-2 lead, Parillo led off the fifth inning with a double and came around to score on a RBI single by senior captain Steve Galluba. North Branford went up for good when Baxter singled home Galluba later in the frame. North Branford broke open the game by plating six runs in the sixth. Freshman Dom Scalia had two hits with an RBI, while junior Sean Lucibello, Parillo, Baxter, and Pollock all had base knocks and came then around to score during the inning.
The next day, North Branford squared off against Old Saybrook and won a 4-3 decision on a walk-off base hit by junior Bret Fee, who also got the win on the mound by tossing a complete game. The Rams took a 2-0 lead, but in the bottom of the third, Fee led off with a walk and later scored on an RBI single by Galluba to make it a one-run game. North Branford took the lead in the sixth inning as Galluba singled home Fee to tie it, then stole second, advanced to third on a fielder’s choice, and scored on a wild pitch.
After Old Saybrook tied the game, freshman Dom Scalia led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk and then the T-Birds’ next two batters were walked intentionally. Fee stepped up to the plate and sent the first pitch he saw to left-center field for the game-winning hit.
“We’ve been behind in four of the last five games, and we’ve won three of them. This is a resilient bunch of guys. They never give up. They just stick together,” Coach Mitchell said. “We were lucky to score in the bottom of the seventh, which in the past couple of years, wasn’t really there.”
On April 25, North Branford dropped a 5-4 decision at Hale-Ray. Sophomore Jadon Canelli pitched North Branford’s third complete game of the week in the defeat. The T-Birds grabbed a 1-0 advantage in the first inning, when Galluba led off a single, swiped second, and scored on an error. Hale-Ray tied the score in the third, and the game remained knotted at 1 until Hale-Ray scored four runs in the fifth.
North Branford answered by plating three runs in the sixth inning on five straight singles. The Thunderbirds had the game-tying run on second base in the seventh inning, but were unable to get him in.
While North Branford’s pitching is holding up as expected, Coach Mitchell said the T-Birds have been a pleasant surprise with their performance in the batter’s box this spring.
“Most of our pitchers pitched a lot last year, which is helping a lot this year. I was expecting that to be a bright spot, but I’ve been really happy with our offensive outbursts,” said Mitchell. “We’ve been swinging the bat really well.”
North Branford’s offense should get an additional lift with the return of Nick Mancini. The senior captain suffered an injury early in the season, but Coach Mitchell is expecting Mancini to be back in the lineup as the T-Birds’ designated hitter this week.
“It’s tough to lose a captain, but I’m proud of the kids for rebounding from that loss. We’re very happy to have him back,” Mitchell said. “We not only missed him as a player, but he’s also such a great leader and person on the team.”
From the Sidelines
The North Branford baseball team’s roster features senior captains Nick Mancini, Steve Galluba, Tyler Sibley, and Carl Jacobson; fellow seniors Colin Baxter, Matt Cosgrove, Gio Parillo, and Gary Robinson; juniors Stephen Adamczyk, Nicholas Bonaldo, Tyler Capasso, Joseph Carbone, Enrique Diaz, Bret Fee, Sean Lucibello, Jonathan Michonski, John Pollock, and Anthony Puglisi; sophomores Jeremy Bunnell, Jadon Canelli, Patrick Mullen, Anthony Raffone, and Nicholas Tranquilli; and freshmen Ryan Anderson, Ryan Michonski, Ryan Nuzzo, Dom Scalia, and Michael Virginelli.
Head Coach Billy Mitchell is in his 11th season as North Branford’s skipper and his 17th year overall with the program. Mitchell is assisted by Frank Mentone and Ron Ragozzino.
North Branford has outscored its opposition by a 94-42 differential this season.
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