Baseball: Maxx Catapano pitches Hunters into NABF final

Ryan Zahornasky batted .467 in the NABF Northeast Regional to win the batting title. — Bill Bloxsom photo

Ryan Zahornasky hit .467 in the NABF Northeast Regional to win the batting title. — Bill Bloxsom photo

Maxx Catapano pitched a nine-inning complete game to help Milford Hunters defeat Columbus Auto Body, 3-1, in the National Amateur Baseball Federation Northeast Regional semifinals at Quigley Stadium in West Haven on Saturday afternoon.

The Hunters, out of the Bridgeport Senior City League, will play the Westchester Baseball Associations’ New Rochelle (N.Y.) Robins for the Major Division title on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. at Quigley.

The Robins defeated the West Haven Twilight League’s Thermaxx Jackets 5-3 in the other semifinal.

The Regional champ earns a berth in the World Series to be held in Battle Creek (Mich.) from Aug 4-7.

Catapano, a Milford native, Fairfield Warde graduate and Seattle Mariner draftee, scattered seven hits, struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.

The Hunters, the Pool B runners-up at 1-2, scored a run in the bottom of the first inning and added two (one unearned) in the seventh.

Columbus Auto Body, the Pool A champs at 2-1, scored an unearned run in the top of the eighth.

Mike Bartlett from Milford, a St. Joseph High product, walked with one out in the first and went to third on Catapano’s infield single.

Bartlett, who played collegiately at Quinnipiac University, scored on Fairfield Prep graduate Ron Williams’ fielder’s choice ground out to Shelton High graduate Ryan Zahornasky at third base.

Hunter Phillips, out of Masuk High and Sacred Heart University, doubled to deep right, but Catapano was gunned down at the plate.

Axel DeJesus out of Stratford High and a standout at Mitchell College, got the start for Columbus.

After pitching a perfect second inning, the right-handed DeJesus walked the tightrope the next five frames.

The Hunters put their leadoff batter on base in four straight at bats, but couldn’t bring a run home.

DeJesus helped himself in the third inning by starting a 1-5-6 rundown fielder’s choice.

In the fourth a hit by Williams, the all-time leading hitter for the Columbia University Lions, and a walk to Phillips started the inning.

DeJesus got an assist from Zahornasky, the best single-season batter ever at Newbury College (Mass.), who knocked down a hard grounder from Joe Rohrig and threw him out.

DeJesus then put the next two batters in the book on strikes.

In the fifth, Trumbull’s Tyler Graziano singled. The Albertus Magnus College player reached base all four at bats from ninth in the batting order.

Graziano stole his second base and Bartlett walked one out later.

Columbus Auto Body got out of the jam when first baseman Dave Matthews out of Newtown High turned Catapano’s liner into an unassisted double play.

In the sixth, Williams and Phillips singled. DeJesus struck out the next three batters to up his total to six.

The Hunters broke through in the seventh.

Graziano was hit by a pitch.

Masuk High star and Quinnipiac University standout Kyle Horton hit the ball to Matthews at first. He went for the force at second, but his throw hit Graziano in the helmet and the ball caromed into center field.

With runners on the corners, DeJesus reached deep again, getting Catapano to pop out to the mound and Williams to ground out to second as Graziano scored for a 2-0 lead.

When Phillips’ grounder was misplayed, Milford had a 3-0 lead.

Columbus Auto Body, held to only a Funaro single in its first trip through the batting order, saw six more batters retired before Andrew Scully, out of Bunnell High and Eastern Connecticut State, singled to center with two out in the fifth.

Catapano then notched his sixth strikeout.

J.J. Montello proved to be the backbone of the Hunters’ defense at second base.

With Columbus putting up a predominately lefty-swinging lineup (six batters), Montello, out of Nashua (N.H.) and a Rivier University standout, had six assists and two putouts.

Nick Perrelli singled for Columbus with two out in the sixth, but the North Branford native and New Haven Charger player, was stranded.

In the seventh, Woodbridge native, Notre Dame West Haven and Endicott College player Evan Lumpinski (infield) and Scully (center) had consecutive two-out hits.

Catapano answered with a strikeout.

Funaro, now at Eastern after starring at North Branford, and Horton opened the eighth with singles.

Down by two, a sacrifice bunt was off the table.

Perrelli then hit a sharp grounder up the middle that Phillips’ turned into a 6-6-3 double play.

Zahornasky’s grounder was misplayed to score Funaro and take the score to 3-1.

Columbus Auto Body’s Zach Morgillo out of Hamden High and Nichols College pitched a scoreless eighth inning, issuing a walk and registering a strikeout.

Matthews singled off a diving Horton at third base to open the ninth.

A soft liner and a ground out ended the game.

The Hunters opened play with a 6-0 victory over the Milford Monsters from the Connecticut Adult Baseball Association. They then dropped 7-0 and 1-0 decision to Pool B champions Thermaxx.

Columbus Auto Body defeated Bridgeport All-Stars from the CT Adult Baseball Association 11-0 in its first game. They then lost 10-5 to the Champlain Mariners (Vt.) from the Green Mountain Baseball League, before defeating the New Rochelle Robins 6-0.

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