Gaels outdo Lions in pitchers’ duel (Updated)

Senior right-hander Vin Backert pitched a complete-game shutout to lead the Shelton High baseball team past visiting Foran High, 3-0, in an SCC interdivision matchup last Wednesday night.

Backert allowed just two hits and struck out five, outdueling hard-throwing Lion right-hander Joe Zanghi — who surrendered just four hits and notched six strikeouts in five innings of work.

“We had a little difficulty catching up to his fastball,” Shelton coach Scott Gura said. “We just did a little more than they did to get the win.”

Shelton scored all three of its runs with two outs in the bottom of the first inning, with Justin Lynch providing a key two-run single to right field.

“He fought it off and found a hole,” Gura said.

Zanghi retired Tyler Tice and Mike Cowell on grounders to get two quick outs in the first, before Ryan Testani walked after a nine pitch at-bat.

Ed Groth followed with an infield single and Marcello Ursini drew a walk to load the bases for Lynch.

Zanghi got ahead in the count 0-2, but Lynch poked an opposite-field, two-run single down the first-base line.

Ursini then scored on a passed ball, before Backert popped out to end the inning.

“We compounded things with the passed ball,” Foran coach Garrett Walker said. “Give Shelton credit, they got a small opportunity and capitalized it.”

On the mound, Backert made the three-run margin stand — with some help from the Gael defense.

Chris Yee walked in the top of the first and Christian Malave hammered a grounder toward the hole at shortstop. Tice made a back-handed stop, turning the 6-4-3 double play to defuse the Foran threat.

Casey McCone hit a towering fly ball to center field in the top of the second that carried over the head of Michael Ficano. Right fielder Patrick Murphy cut over and made the running catch, preventing an extra-base hit.

The Lions’ first hit came in the top of the fourth, when Anthony Alicki singled with two outs. But, Backert struck out Zanghi swinging to retire the side.

“He threw first-pitch strikes and mixed in his breaking stuff,” Gura said.

Said Walker:

“Throwing a two-hit shutout? That deserves some recognition right there.”

Foran had only one more base runner the rest of the way, when Andrew Patrick punched a lead-off single to left field in the top of the sixth.

Backert, who improved to 5-2, induced two infield pops, sandwiched around a grounder back to the mound from Yee to maintain the 3-0 edge.

Shelton (14-6) qualified for the SCC tournament, earning the No. 5 seed, and took on North Haven High (12-8) in the quarterfinals.

Foran (9-9) will open play in the Class L state tournament on May 28.

“I thought we did a lot of good things today,” Walker said. “Beside the three batters in the first inning, we played a pretty good baseball game.”