West Haven Twilight League president and Columbus Auto Body team owner Vin DiLauro is in the collision business. But, at times, this year, you’d have thought he was involved in transportation.
No fewer than four of his players have ties to the Naugatuck Valley and more specifically to Shelton. All played key roles as the team advanced to the championship-game round of the Northeast Amateur Baseball Federation Tournament this past week.
Third baseman Ryan Zahornasky, outfielder Dan McCormack, pitchers Joe Smeraglino and Ryan Daiss and relievers Vin Backert and Peter Jay all played in the Shelton High program at one time.
After defeating WHTL rival and regular-season champion, Thermaxx Jackets, 3-2, in an elimination round game on Saturday, the teams locked horns for the seventh time in 2015 on Sunday afternoon at Quigley Stadium on Sunday.
The winner would earn a trip to Battle Creek, Mich., and the NABF nationals. It didn’t turn out to be Columbus’ day, however, as Thermaxx, behind a nine-inning complete-game effort from Stratford native Brian Caselli downed Columbus, 8-2, to advance.
One day earlier, Columbus manager Tom Carroll was ebullient after wins over Thermaxx (3-2) and Fedell’s Mechanics of the Bridgeport Senior City League, 5-2. It set up the title confrontation.
“We’ve played each other so many times this season that we pretty much know what the other team can do,” Caroll said on Saturday. “We’ll be ready for them.”
Sunday was a different story. A side-armer with an array of pitches including a slider and sinker and a sneaky-fast heater, Caselli only allowed six hits. He did save most of his best pitches for the closing innings, getting two strikeouts in the final frame. His quick deliveries kept Columbus’ hitters off balance.
It was Caselli’s fourth win this year over Columbus. He finished with a 6-0 record and entered Sunday’s game with a 0.23 earned-run average. Caselli was selected as the tournament’s MVP.
In all, Thermaxx piled up 14 hits and exploded for five runs in the sixth, which gave it a 7-0 lead at the time.
Both of Columbus’ runs, which were scored in the seventh, came on a two-RBI pinch-hit double by Stratford’s Shawn Blake, who played his high school baseball at Fairfield Prep.
Zahornasky, hitting in the No. 3 spot, had a pair of hits, the only Columbus player to do so.
Daiss and Backert were touched up for seven of the eight runs. Jay threw well in the eighth before giving way to James Taubl, a New Haven native who attended Christian Heritage Academy in Trumbull and now pitches for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.
E.J. Ashworth, a recent graduate of Fairfield University, got the win over Fedell’s. He worked into the eighth inning before giving way to Taubl, who notched a pair of strikeouts.
Zahornasky was one of four Columbus players with two hits each in Saturday’s afternoon game against Fedell’s. He also drove in a run.
Ashworth had seven strikeouts while only yielding one walk.
He gave up nine hits on two earned runs.