Baseball: Cowell powers Shelton past Masuk

It was a game that took three hours and two delays and didn’t finish until after 10 p.m., but coach Scott Gura’s Shelton High baseball team hung on for a hard-fought 5-4 win over the Masuk Panthers on Saturday night at Shelton High.

“Games like this are tough on pitchers, what with the rain delay, and (Mike) Cowell did really well,” Gura said. “He ended up throwing over 115 pitches; he got into a little trouble early on and towards the end I think he was just tired, but he mowed them down in the middle innings, and that’s what made the difference.”

Cowell tossed a complete game, allowing four runs and eight hits, while striking out eight.

Coach Ralph Franco’s Panthers (7-3) jumped ahead in the top of the first, putting up a single run in the last few moments of daylight. Masuk would load the bases with two outs, but Cowell had a strike out to end the inning.

Shelton (3-7) bounced back with a run in the bottom of the inning. The Gaels’ offense got off to a slow start, but Cowell helped his own cause when he smacked a two-out double to right field.

Junior Justin Lynch, hitting in the cleanup spot, drove Cowell in with another double to center field.

Cowell worked a quick top of the second, and the Gaels’ offense was right back at it in the bottom of the frame.

Senior Hudson Boles drew a four-pitch walk to open up the inning, then promptly stole second. Lefty batter Michael Ficano laid down a bunt to moves Boles to third, and he scored on an infield single by Marc Zoppi.

Zoppi was thrown out on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Carl Rizzo. Rizzo stole second a few pitches later, then advanced to third with some heads-up baserunning when the return throw from second base to the pitcher went past the mound and rolled to the backstop.

Leadoff man Pat Murphy then drew a walk, but the inning was then suspended by a lightning strike.

Lightning requires a 35-minute delay from the most recent strike, and so the game was automatically postponed until 8:15. The two teams began to warm up under a light mist around 8:10, but the rain began to fall harder before play could resume, and the squads had to wait it out for an additional 45 minutes.

It was still raining when the game began again around nine o’clock. Masuk’s pitcher Dylan Izzo escaped the inning without further damage, and the scoring slowed until the bottom of the fourth inning.

Here, Ficano and Zoppi reached base on back-to-back hit-by-pitches, and both moved up a base on a double steal.

Murphy hit a tapper in front of the plate to score Ficano, and reached safely. He was thrown out stealing second, however, and the inning came to a close with Shelton on top 3-1.

In the fifth, Lynch worked the count full before hitting a sharp grounder to the shortstop, whose throw went past first. The ball was deemed dead and Lynch was awarded second.

Chris Berrito came in to pinch hit and singled to right on an 0-1 count to drive in Lynch and extend the Gaels’ lead to 4-1. Berrito advanced to second when Boles drew a walk, then came around to score on a misplayed fly ball in the lights and fog.

Cowell made short work of the Panthers in the top of the sixth, and the Gaels took their 5-1 lead into the top of the seventh.

Masuk wouldn’t give up without a fight, though, as it loaded the bases on an error, a walk, and a single. One run scored on a passed ball, and Kyle Horton singled to left to drive in two more.

The play narrowed the deficit to just 5-4, and the Panthers kept things interesting as Tim Quinlan singled and Adam Madison worked a walk to load the bases.

But Cowell kept cool, getting ahead on the count 0-2 before inducing a ground ball to short. The throw was low, but Boles, manning first, scooped it out of the dirt to end the game.

“We had some clutch hits, especially from Lynch and Berrito, and we limited our mistakes,” Gura said. “Overall it was a good night.”

Shelton lost to Notre Dame of West Haven, 12-4, on Wednesday.