Baseball: Post 16 opens with shutout victory

If last Sunday’s result is any indication of the season to come, then Shelton American Legion Post 16 baseball coach Steve Boles will be a very happy man in about a month and a half.

Shelton defeated North Haven, 2-0, in a Zone II contest at the high school field.

Starting and winning pitcher Vin Backert, a mainstay last year when Post 16 had a 15-13 record, threw a one-hitter in a 73-pitch, five-strikeout performance.

He yielded one walk and the team behind him played errorless baseball.

“He really wanted to throw a no-hitter,” Boles said. “I’m very happy with his effort. Vin was able to mix his pitches well and he consistently kept the ball in and around the strike zone.

“If we’re going to be successful this year, we need to minimize our errors and get good pitching. It always seems to sound like a cliché, but that’s what wins games at any level.”

The only scar on Backert’s day came in the fifth inning when North Haven’s Terry Giatrelis hit a slow roller down the third-base line. Chris Kanios charged the ball and threw wide of first.

But, by the time the ball got there, Giatrelis had beaten it out.

Giatrelis was the second of only two hitters to reach base. Backert, a starting third baseman as a freshman this spring at New England College in Henniker, N.H., walked opposing pitcher Chandler Andrewsen in the first.

With Giatrelis on first in the fourth and having already gotten two outs, Backert retired the next seven batters.

Shelton used a base hit by Mike Rotondo and a double by Backert to put runners on second and third, before C.J. Rizzo hit an infield groundout which scored Rotondo for a 1-0 lead in the first inning.

Rizzo drove in his team’s second run in the third inning when he reached on a fielder’s choice as Rotondo, who was on third, raced home.

Backert had two of Shelton’s three hits and Rotondo had the other.

Andrewsen pitched well for North Haven. He struck out four, walked two, and hit a batter (Rotondo in the third).

“Our guys didn’t give him any offensive support,” said Post 76 coach Charlie Flanagan. “Their guy threw strikes and we could barely hit the ball out of the infield. Chandler deserved a better fate.”

Post 16 has a 2-2 record so far. Shelton played its first of 10 three-game sets last week, losing two of those three to Stratford.

Shelton began a three-game set with East Haven on Tuesday night and Post 16 will have a road doubleheader this Saturday against West Haven before playing Post 71 at home on Sunday at 10 a.m.

Zone II is always a competitive group. Along with Stratford, North Haven, East Haven and Branford, it boasts teams in Orange, Ansonia, Hamden, New Haven and Milford.

“We’ll be playing 30 games in 38 days,” said Boles, who took over last year and is attempting to turn the program around after several down seasons.

“So, with that many games in that short of time, we’ll need to get solid pitching from quite a few players.”

Other pitching mainstays are Rizzo, Mark Polkowski, Kanios, Rotondo and Hudson Boles.

Shortstop Tyler Tice, a freshman at the University of Delaware, is one of the teams’ leaders.

Boles (first), Rizzo (second), Tice and Kanios (third) rounded out the infield. Mark Zoppi caught, while Matt Foley (right), Rotondo (center) and Jake Camp (left) manned the outfield against North Haven.

“It’s very early and we’re still a little disjointed right now,” Boles said. “So we’ve got a ways to go to see just how good we’ll be.

“We have a decent core of players back from last year, and there was some nice improvement. It always begins with pitching. We have the arms. Now we have to see how well we do.”

Other members of the team include Jordan Urbani and Michael Ficano.