There are good vibes surrounding the Shelton American Legion Baseball team this summer, and that was evident even in the last inning of a 9-1 setback to visiting Monroe on June 17.
Coach Tom Murphy encouraged his players to have some good at-bats and reminded them that this was the first of six games in as many days. The forward-thinking attitude will be key for Shelton as the team strives to finish business this summer.
Last year, Shelton did not complete its season in Zone II, but Murphy is optimistic the squad plays it out this time around.
“Our goals, number one, is to finish the season, and number two, to make the zone playoffs,” said Murphy whose Zone V lineup had won three straight games heading into the Masuk contest and carried a 3-3 overall mark into a Monday rainout with Bethel.
“And what we want to do is develop the players along the way.”
Murphy likes the enthusiasm of his squad this summer.
“The kids really want to play. They want to play baseball. And I have a really great group of coaches and they want to be here,” Murphy said.
Shelton trailed Monroe 2-0 in the bottom of the second inning and got to within a run when Frank DeMarco reached on an error, T.J. O’Sullivan singled, and Mike Kennedy drove in a run on a groundout.
Shelton was one strike away from escaping the top of the third inning with the score holding at 2-1, but Monroe pitcher Patrick Ryan helped his own cause with a two-run single to spark a five-run rally.
A pair of walks and two hit batters aided the Monroe cause in that frame.
“We were kind of our own worst enemy,” Murphy said.
Ryan made sure the lead would have stood up anyway, limiting Shelton to just three hits — a Jafar Vohra single and a Craig McNamara double.
“We didn’t have the hitting we normally have,” Murphy said.
There were plenty of small wins within the loss for Shelton. Left fielder Matt Hunyadi cut a ball off to hold a Monroe player to a single, O’Sullivan had a diving catch in right field, and some hard-hit outs gave Murphy good reason to have a positive outlook for upcoming games.
Given teams play a handful of days some weeks during the summer slate, and considering a pitch count impacts how often a pitcher can be used, Murphy and the other coaches must manage their pitchers carefully.
Murphy said Shelton has a pitching by committee approach in place this summer.
Kennedy, Justin Barbato, Vohra and Frank DeMarco all toed the rubber in the Monroe game.
Barbato went 2 1/3 innings, and allowed just one hit, and DeMarco allowed two hits in 1 1/3 innings.
Murphy and the Shelton squad hope they are juggling pitchers deep in July when the state playoffs begin.