The Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak and scored twice as many runs as they had in those past three outings to take home West Hartford's very first Mayor's Cup, beating 4-1 before an enthusiastic crowd at the Fiondella Field.
Anything can happen in a contest between West Hartford's crosstown rivals where team members know each other well from years of playing together on youth and summer teams.
"It's going to be a dog fight," declared Hall head coach Jeff Billing before the start of the game.
Chieftain head coach Ty Bongiovanni agreed that the teams were evenly matched. "It's great that both teams have been playing so well," he said.
Mayor Scott Slifka, a Hall graduate who now lives in the Conard district, had the honor of throwing out the first pitch to Conard starting catcher Brendon Rossmeisl. "Just outside!" uttered Slifka as Rossmeisl made the catch.
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Conard was the home team, and the game was off to an exciting start when Hall's George Lund tripled in the first inning off Chieftain's ace pitcher and team captain Charlie Fisher.
Lund, the No. 1 starter for the Warriors, hit Conard lead-off batter John Dinucci with a pitch in the bottom of the first. A sacrifice fly by senior team captain Jack Wilson gave Conard a 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
In the third inning, a clutch two-out hit up the middle drove in two runs for Hall senior first baseman Tommy Rose, giving Hall a 2-1 lead.
The rest of the runs scored in the game belonged to the Warriors. In the top of the fourth, junior Will Cook tripled and scored on a squeeze play – a bunt by junior Zach Dobbins, and Hall led 3-1.
Freshman Neil Kelly scored in the top of the fifth, giving Hall a 4-1 lead. Fisher did not give up, however, and Hall left three runners stranded on base at the end of the inning.
Lund had retired 14 in a row by the bottom of the fifth, but his streak was broken when Conard senior captain Mike Carabello was hit by a pitch.
Fisher retired the Warriors in order in the top of the sixth.
Conard's first hit of the game came with a line drive by Rossmeisl in the bottom of the sixth, ending Lund's bid for a no-hitter, but Rossmeisl was left stranded on first at the end of the inning.
Conard came up empty in the final inning, and Hall was awarded with the Mayor's Cup for their 4-1 victory.
"[George Lund] pitched great; he deserved to win," said Bongiovanni after the game. "Our kids fought, but when you get behind the bats get difficult ... we didn't react the way we should have," he said. "Charlie battled," Bongiovanni said about Fisher's pitching.
"It was awesome," said Billing, who was elated about Hall's victory. "We've been working really had in practice, and for these boys to see those positive changes – that's what high school sports are all about."
"When Tommy Rose was down in the count and got the bat on the ball, that was the turning point," Billing said.
Regarding his decision to use the squeeze play in the fourth, Billing said, "You just feel the momentum swing." He said Dobbins is a really good bunter and the team had been practicing that play.
"[Lund] continues to be one of the best pitchers I've seen throw," Billing said.
"After that first inning I told myself I would do my best," said Lund, who was not rattled by Conard's early run. "All three of my pitches were on today."
Lund has plenty of respect for Fisher, who he said also has "three great pitches."
"Any team in this conference can beat anyone else," Lund said. Following this game, Conard and Hall both have 7-4 records.
West Hartford Public Schools Athletic Director Betty Remigino-Knapp, who attended the game, credited West Hartford Amateur Baseball Association (WHABA) leaders Steve Meucci and Rick Sanford with the success of this event. "They really wanted to do this; they're really supportive and work very well together with all of our coaches," Remigino-Knapp said.
The stands were full of enthusiastic fans – friends and family members – as well as members WHABA's U13 and U14 Thunder travel teams who look forward to a chance to play for either Conard or Hall in a future Mayor's Cup game.
"This is all great for West Hartford baseball," Bongiovanni said.