The Shelton High baseball team played the kind of game on Monday a coach would be proud of — even a coach that just won his 100th career game.
The Gaels got behind the efficient pitching of sophomore Trey McLoughlin and defeated Lyman Hall-Wallingford by a 9-2 margin, putting head coach Scott Gura at the century mark for career victories.
“We came out and played very business-like today,” said Gura. “After Thursday’s performance, where we lost a heartbreaker to Guilford, the boys came out ready to play.”
Shelton pulled everything out of the bag against the Trojans. The Gaels banged out nine hits including two huge, two-out run scoring hits; they worked a successful double-steal on the bases and even manufactured a run on a suicide squeeze at the plate.
But what kept Shelton headed in the right direction was the efficient pitching of McLoughlin, who scattered six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter while inducing 15 groundball outs.
“Trey pitched very well for us winning his first varsity start,” said Gura. “He stayed on top of the batters throwing first pitch strikes. He didn’t get himself in trouble walking batters. He threw strikes and let his defense do their job.”
The Gaels got after it early with leadoff batter Chris Kanios drawing a walk. Mike Ficano followed by ripping a triple to put Shelton on the board. Justin Lynch brought home Ficano on a deep fly to right to give coach Gura’s boys a 2-0 advantage.
McLoughlin continued to be locked in as he struck out two batters in the second after giving up his second leadoff hit to start an inning.
Lynch at third base wrapped the leather around everything that came his way (five putouts) as he robbed the final batter in the second of what appeared to be a hit headed through the infield.
“Justin did a great job in the infield as our defense backed up Trey on the mound,” said Gura. “We weren’t perfect, we made a couple of errors but we didn’t make the mental mistakes that lose ball games.
“The guys did well running the bases and we even were able to move runners along with sacrifice bunts.”
Shelton put on a clinic in the third inning. Mike Cowell was hit by a pitch to lead it off and Lynch drew a walk. The Gaels then pulled off a successful double steal putting both runners in scoring position.
Marc Zoppi executed a perfect suicide squeeze getting the barrel of the bat on the ball just before Cowell crossed the plate.
The Gaels weren’t through schooling Lyman Hall, as John Zoppi came through with a two out, two strike, run scoring single to left to make it a 4-0 advantage.
The best threat the Trojans had was leadoff hitter Joe Cassella, who had three of the six Lyman Hall hits. The visitors tried to get something started in the fourth, after the first Shelton error, only to have Lynch glove the third out for the third time in four innings.
The wheels came off the wagon in the fifth when Shelton plated three more runs to open a 7-0 lead, ending the mound chores for Tucker McClure the Lyman Hall starter.
Paul Salley belted a double in the left field corner to get it started and Marc Zoppi was hit by a pitch. John Zoppi dropped a bunt up the first base side setting up both runners in scoring position. Jordan Urbani handcuffed the shortstop reaching on an infield single to load the bases.
Jake Camp drew a walk to chase in a run and Ficano hit a run-scoring single to left. Cowell worked out the second bases-loaded walk of the frame to bring in another run, and at the end of five Shelton was in control.
The Gaels tacked on two more runs in the sixth when Salley belted his second double of the game and came around to score. Camp hit a two out single to score Riley Casey with the final run for Shelton.
The Trojans scored single runs in the sixth and the seventh aided by a couple of throwing errors, but McLoughlin refused to get rattled and continued to throw strikes to put the game away.
“On a personal note I have been very lucky over the past seven years to have the kind of talent that has come through this program,” said Gura after his seniors chased him down for a quick Gatorade shower to commemorate the 100th win.
“Winning the state championship in 2012 was certainly the highlight, but we’ve had a lot of All-State players come though the program since I started coaching here and it’s been a real privilege to be part of something like this.”
“But it’s more about the team wins and the team being successful than anything else. We struggled a little bit last year after we had such a successful run of great years.
“I believe we are heading in the right direction with this seniors class, so I think we can be very successful with this group of guys.”
Shelton travels to Branford High on Saturday for a 2:30 p.m. showdown with the Hornets (4-4).